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One More Birthday?

Welcome to My Green Vermont - A Blog by Eulalia Benejam Cobb.
By Eulalia Benejam Cobb

She was born on Bastille Day, and in her youth she embodied some of the rowdy spirit of the masses that stormed that fortress. She was a little flame of a dog, with her deep red coat and burning enthusiasm. The red color endures, but the enthusiasm, now that she has turned fourteen, is on the wane. Sometimes I find her standing in the middle of the living room, shaking her head up and down and with a look in her eyes that says, “now what did I come in here for?” I know exactly how she feels, because it happens to me too. Now that Sister Age, as M.F.K. Fisher used to call it, is upon both of us, I understand Bisou better than I did during the wild days of her youth, when she rocketed about the land.

We are both former extroverts. Bisou was once the most dedicated greeter of man and dog, going up with wagging tail and winning smiles to large black dogs, people in wheelchairs, and unpredictable toddlers alike. Now conversation exhausts her, and she needs lots of quiet time to recover, as do I. Still, we’re in pretty good shape, all things considered. Though she takes daily doses of Chinese herbs with names like Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang and I take vitamins by the handful, neither of us is on prescription meds. Our appetite is excellent, but her diet (raw turkey and a little kibble), which I control with an iron hand, is better than mine (too much cheese and not enough kale). As a result her waistline, unlike mine, is enviably slender.

In some respects she exhibits surprising wisdom and cleverness. When I approach her scissors in hand, aiming to cut off the greasy mats that form under her ears, she stands stock still, as if she knows the potential for disaster if she wiggles. When she looks out the sliding door and barks at a passerby, she turns and checks with my husband at me, to see if we’re telling her to stop. Since she has lost most of her hearing, I have stopped insisting that she respond instantly to my commands, and she has quickly figured out that she can ignore me with impunity if she has some urgent sniffing to do. Another advantage to her deafness is that thunderstorms, of which we have had many in Vermont recently, no longer frighten her. I, on the other hand, cannot think of any advantages to my own hearing loss.

Our walks are getting shorter. It’s either too cold (though she used to never mind the cold), too wet (she has developed an aversion to wet feet), or too hot.  On the latter, I’m all with her. I worry about how hot the asphalt must feel just a few inches from her belly, and I try to make her walk on the grass. Once inside the house I hand-feed her a couple of ice cubes to cool her down. But some days, even if the weather is ideal, she simply doesn’t feel like going out.

Besides food, her other great pleasure is sleep, and how I envy her that! She sleeps through the night, going ten hours between bathroom breaks. She sleeps after breakfast, and before our walk, and after our walk. She sleeps intermittently as she waits for her dinner, and then after dinner until nine p.m., when she asks to go out. Then she sleeps again, only waking up to let me know, if I’ve stayed up past ten, that it’s time for us both to go to bed.

Watching her doze I often think of that other sleep, which probably won’t be long in coming. Her parents both lived to the remarkable age (for Cavaliers) of fifteen, so I hope to have her company for another year or so. But on her birthday last week I made a wish for her: may she have a gentle, easy death; may she depart in her sleep; and may her bright soul break trail for mine the way she, despite her smallness, used to do when she would plunge ahead of me into snowy woods.


25 Responses

  1. I remember when you got her. It’s hard to believe it’s been 14 years! Which means I’ve known you for longer than that!

  2. ah, i remember when you first got her. hard to believe she is 14 now. this is so tenderly written, and it reminds me of all the old dogs i’ve loved before.

  3. Oh Bisou❣️ those of us who have been privileged to know you in those startup years know your thundering gallop of joy. I will never forget when you brought her to Book Group and Andrew was babysitting bissou and Delbert. We could hear bissou galloping up the hall, and then the steps to make an appearance, and then turn around quickly and go back down the steps. what a love. What a joyful, exuberant energy. This is a beautiful writing. God bless her and you. And I hope your prayers are answered that she goes easy. Beautiful precious bissou.

  4. Shortly after Bisou joined the family, you questioned your sanity for getting such a rambunctious pup. Fourteen years has flown past!

    1. Good to hear from you, Marty! Yes, her intensity was maddening sometimes. I was lucky to have two adult German Shepherds to absorb some of her energy.

  5. Lali. This is lovely . I remember Bissou when I first came and you still had 1 German Shepard. She has always been so friendly and sweet– not to mention beautiful.. How hard it is to see and feel the time coming close to have to let a beloved doggie go. Some of the saddest days of our lives– only helped by having a kind vet come to the house and giving distracting treats and love as the sedative shot begins to work– as with my last- and she went to sleep in my arms before the final shot.

  6. Lali, your coffee post does my heart good! Now I understand how you can write these lively, fabulous blogs each week and come up with a new subject week after week.! No wonder poor Balzac died young [do you know if it was a heart attack or heart related?] I have never dared to have more than a breakfast cup of coffee due to sleeplessness at night and am always astounded by those who drink it any time including after dinner!! My daughter Sage ‘s caffeine fairy allows her to drink coffee with impunity. I’m very jealous! I didn’t know of Bach’s coffee cantata! Am curious! Have you heard it? Hugs, Wendy

  7. Lali, there was no room to say that I adore your painting at the end of your piece about coffee! It is beautiful and should be enlarged and framed!
    Of course I reread your touching piece on Bisou and love the photo at the end. Read all the loving comments including Julie’s.. I didn’t realise that Delbert was your first exposure to that breed. You probably told me but I had forgotten. I also didn’t know her name was the indigo bunting song! Of course!

    1. The illustration is one I made for a greeting card several years ago. And yes, Julie and Andrew’s Cavalier made me fall in love with the breed. (It wasn’t Delbert, but his successor, the little Blenheim female.)

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