To Love An Old Dog
By Christina Boling
This week we welcome Christina Boling as our guest blogger. Christina has been working professionally with dogs for over a decade. From dog training, to pet sitting, to dog grooming, and dog rescue, she has held several titles over the years. Besides dogs, she is an avid writer and traveler. She and her dog family came to Washington from Florida over a year ago, a cross-country trip of a lifetime. She is currently employed as a veterinary technician and lives in Issaquah with her three dogs: Border Collies “Pilot” and “Pan”, and “Violet” the Chihuahua.
The first time I saw Calvin, he was wobbling down a set of stairs from quarantine at a rescue I had only been with for a few months. His nails were as long as bear claws. He walked with a limp. His white fur was stained brown. And he was old. Very old.
At the time, I was a nine-year veteran of rescue work. That’s nine years of saying, “I like this dog, but he’s just a foster. He’s going to a new home soon.” Nine years of, “I’m not keeping another one. Not right now.” I watched many great dogs come and go, and though there were many tearful goodbyes, bittersweet moments where I bid them farewell as they drove away with their new families, none of those dogs were ever mine.
And then there was Calvin, a mangy fifteen-year-old white mix of herding dog this and that. And of all of the dogs I had met over the years, it was him I immediately fell in love with.
“Can I take him with me?” I asked the shelter manager. “Just as a foster, you know- so he doesn’t have to be in the kennel.” I didn’t need another dog. But with her blessing, I took him home, bathed him, and trimmed his nails. His teeth were in horrible shape and his breath was unpleasant, but I let him kiss me while I combed the mats out of his fur. He wasn’t spry or agile, but he made his way around the house- first exploring, and then falling into stride behind me, alongside the other dogs, as I went from room to room. A month later, I signed his adoption paperwork.
After years of bringing new dogs into my home, there was something different about this one: the adjustment was painless. He was elderly, and in so many ways, that was one of the loveliest things about him. With his age came wisdom. He knew where to sit for the best pats on the head, when to follow me and when to stay put. He was full of an indefinite calmness. Mellow, but still outgoing enough to greet me at the door. He trusted me because he knew he had found a good place, and in turn, I knew I had found a good dog.
Adopting an old dog is not the same as adopting a young dog. Your time with them, always too short as it is, is even shorter. I thought this would make loving him more difficult, but in practice, it made our bond easier. I cherished our walks because I knew they were limited. When he sat beneath my feet at my desk, I would take the time to stop working and appreciate his company. And when we sat together in the backyard, I watched him, wondering what incredible things he had seen in his long life. I didn’t know what had happened to his family, why he was separated from them, and how exactly he had ended up here. I only knew he was Calvin. And that was enough.
Calvin left as quickly as he came. He was with me for a wonderful year, and then he wasn’t. There is an empty spot on my floor and in my heart. But the memories we made and lessons I learned still linger and they will be part of me forever. That is what it means to love an old dog.