I was driving up to the house the other day, and as I crested the hill I saw a white tail bounding across the horizon. I went into alarm mode. What was Lexi doing out? And why was she running like that?
It wasn\’t Lexi. It was one of the nine deer who take refuge on our land now that hunting season has started. Lexi, alas, doesn\’t bound like she used to. And the white, woolly underside of her tail—which for most of her life she has carried proudly curled over her back—is not visible as often as it used to be.
From the front, eleven-year-old Lexi looks like a German Shepherd. From the back, with her high hind quarters and her curly tail, she looks either like a German Shepherd with bad conformation or a German Shepherd with a Husky grandparent. Since we adopted her at four months from the Humane Society, we never did find out the reason for that curly tail.
My husband and I used to disagree about Lexi\’s tail. I thought it was a pity—if she would only let it hang low she could pass for purebred. He thought it looked happy and brave. The years have declared me the winner: these days Lexi\’s tail mostly hangs down between her withered hind legs. She is old, our feisty girl, and her back, her hips and her knees hurt no matter how we try to help.
The most intense, driven dog I\’ve ever known now spends her days lying on a rug, looking out at the back yard. She doesn\’t get up to greet us when we come home. She doesn\’t come upstairs to sleep in our bedroom. Put your hand on her back and there\’s no cushion between skin and skeleton. The hair on her tail looks sparse, and feels dry and stiff to the touch. Her muzzle is white. Lexi\’s moon is on the wane.
But not completely. At night, when I let the dogs out before bedtime, Lexi still flies out like a bat out of hell, ready to do battle with whatever fiend is lurking in the woods behind the house. Barking with all her might, she dives into the darkness as fast as her stiff legs will carry her, and the last thing I see is the white underside of her tail, curled high over her back in outrage and delight.