By: Mary Fran Bontempo

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Casey diaper

Casey unhappily wearing her diaper.

This morning, as usual, I found myself crouching beside my bed, trying to extricate my old, cranky dog from her sleeping hideout beneath it as she growled and yelped in protest. Reaching below to grab her, my hand found the latest wet spot, as I noticed her diaper had come off in the night. More pee under the bed, and yes, I said diaper.

Casey is more than old, she’s kind of ancient–for a dog. Or for anything. By my calculations, which may not be entirely accurate as she was a stray, my mutt is approximately 17 years old. If you’re trying the math, that’s 119 in dog years.

She’s deaf, she stinks to high heaven (her breath gags everyone within smelling distance and could likely be qualified as a weapon of mass destruction), we frequently have to lift her into a standing position, and “accidents” have become de rigeur in my house. Which accounts for the diaper, a weird cloth contraption with a hole for her tail which then wraps around her legs and fastens with Velcro. At least it used to fasten with velcro, when it was new, well over a year ago. This morning marked the second time I could be found sewing additional velcro onto a doggie diaper in hopes of keeping the thing on her butt while she snores under the bed at night.

A few months ago, she lost a gigantic tooth, which I stepped on while walking barefoot in my bedroom. Gross barely does the incident justice. Her legs are so bad that I carry her 40 pound body up the steps every night, one old lady lugging another–both of us grunting and groaning with the effort. Before bed, I have to light her way down the deck steps outside with a flashlight; her once superb vision now clouded by cataracts.

She is constantly underfoot, always tripping me up, loping along after my every step. She drives me crazy, and at least once a day, I remind her that it’s way past time for her to go and meet Jesus. In person.

But Thursday is Thanksgiving, and despite the stink, and the mess, and the tripping, I am thankful for that dog.

Yes, she pees under the bed, but she can’t help it. She’s an old lady, and those of us who have suddenly become acutely aware of the Depends in the feminine care aisle know how that goes.

Casey quite happily rooting through the trash.

Casey quite happily rooting through the trash.

And she’s only there because she wants to be near me. Maddeningly near me, which also accounts for the tripping, but where I am, she is, as it’s been for 17 years. I remember early on, when we first got Casey and I happened to be stretched out on the floor watching TV. Suddenly, I felt her plop down beside me, her back pressing into my back–the first time, I suppose, she identified me as the leader of her pack. I remember feeling her warmth. I still remember, 17 years later.

Even now, when I head towards the stairs for bed, she dutifully follows, stopping at the bottom of the steps to stare mournfully up, no doubt dreading the climb with painful legs. So I carry her, because again, she wants to be near me.

And truth be told, I want to be near her. I’m pretty sure this will be Casey’s last Thanksgiving, although I’ve said that for the last two or three years. This time, though, it’s different. I know she’s getting ready to go, and no, I won’t miss the pee, or the stink, or the tripping.

But I will miss the love. I will miss the soft, fuzzy head. I will miss the way she wanders around looking for me if I happen to leave the room while she’s sleeping and she wakes. I will miss looking into her doggie eyes and knowing that the most important person in her world is me. If you’ve never had a dog, you might not get that, but nothing matches that kind of love. Nothing.

I hope when it’s time, she just goes to sleep. I don’t want to have to make that decision. But if I have to, I will. Because I won’t let her suffer. She deserves better.

And this Thursday, when I carve the turkey, I’ll make sure Casey gets an extra juicy slice.

I am thankful for many, many things this year. But I am truly thankful for the love of a good dog.

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving? Click “comments” below and share!