“Thump, thump, thump.” That’s the sound I hear each morning from my precious dog as he wakes to greet the day with a wagging tail. My heart thumps in response, bursting with love for him.
I adopted Blake from a local shelter, a big, goofy, 7-month-old Golden Retriever mix with floppy ears and chunky feet. It seems like yesterday we were bounding through the pet store, loading up on "new dog necessities." Now, 12 years later, Blake's gallop has slowed to a jolly trot, and dozens of stuffed animals and chew toys later, he still has some of his favorites from our first days together. He is a distinguished older gentleman now, with a soft white face and deep soulful eyes. He may sleep a little more and move a little less these days, but I treasure every moment. His health and happiness are a priority for me more than ever.
Blake has some of the common problems of aging. Arthritis in his low back prompted the purchase of a super-comfy orthopedic dog bed a couple of years ago. It’s better than my mattress, although I won’t tell you how I know! Still, muscles start the day tight, so I stretch his hips and legs each morning to help his movement. Blake also gets massages. I recently took a class to learn the best techniques for not only easing his muscle tension, but increasing his overall well-being. He loves it! Exercise is key for Blake, too. He still runs when a squirrel dares to cross our property line, but he most looks forward to our daily walks, which grow more meaningful to me as the days pass.
One thing that hasn’t slowed is Blake’s mind. We began playing “Go Find It” when he was a puppy. It’s a fun start to his day and a routine he expects. He makes a point to pop his nose around the corner in the morning to make sure I’m on task. He patiently waits while I hide treats around the house for him to sniff out. I truly believe this has kept his mind sharp as a tack. Obedience training has played an amazing role as well. Blake became a Canine Good Citizen when he was about a year old, and I feel it’s served his mind well. He always listens and obeys commands, and he’s still a bright, alert dog who’s a puppy at heart.
That’s not to say Blake has been a perfect little package since I brought him home. We’ve battled pancreatitis since puppyhood, and he’s overcome two major surgeries, one for a giant fatty tumor on his groin. The second occurred while I was writing this story. We made our third visit of the year to DoveLewis — this time for a twisted stomach. Now, a week after surgery, he lays before me fast asleep, looking like a patchwork quilt from the stitches and shaved patches all over his body. Incredibly, his spunk and appetite have returned with vigor. In fact, he and I have had a few heart-to-heart chats about him needing to rest while he heals! Speaking of that big heart of his, Blake is now in early-stage heart disease, which was diagnosed last spring. We have it well-managed with twice-daily meds, and it’s going strong. I always joke that we keep the lights on at our vet’s office.
I don't count the dollars I've spent on Blake or the lost sleep awaiting news from the vet in the middle of the night. Not the endless scoops of poop or the many nighttime trips for his favorite treats — after noticing the jar was empty — for our morning game of "Go Find It." What I do count are the soft sighs as Blake falls asleep, the soft, blinking eyes as he gazes at me from across the room, and the wishes I have that they would last forever. I also count my blessings. Twelve years, four legs, and the endless happy thumping from my incredibly loving senior dog . . . and my heart.
Kimberly Maus co-anchors Good Day Oregon on Fox 12 each weekday morning. She lives in North Plains with her husband Matt, her dogs Blake and Rodeo, horses Peso and Maverick, and a donkey named Daisy Mae.