When Charles and Sienna walked into the park a few weeks ago, I was thrilled to see them come in. Sienna is one of my favourite dogs: a standard poodle with the people-loving temperament of a golden retriever. I hadn’t seen them for months, and as Sienna is elderly, I had been wondering if I would see them again.
But as I made my way over to say hi, I was taken aback by Sierra’s appearance. She was skeletally thin. I looked at Charles and said, “Is she okay?”
“She has a lung tumour,” he told me. “She’s on antibiotics for pneumonia right now. The vet said with treatment we could extend her life, but it’s $700 a month, and she’s 15 years old.”
Sienna, who is also going blind, heard my voice, smelled my scent, and did what she always does: buried her head in my skirt. I crouched down and put both arms around her, tears in my eyes. I love this girl.
“So how long without treatment?” I asked.
“A few months, maybe even September or October,” Charles said. “We bought a new puppy from the same breeder; she was born in February, and we’re getting her at the end of May, but I won’t bring her to the park until she’s at least five months old, in July. So Sierra will have a puppy in the house for a few months!”
Charles seemed philosophical about the whole thing. The new puppy will be his fourth standard poodle. They’ve all lived at least 13 years, and heading over the Rainbow Bridge at 15 is pretty good.
I know it’s all part of the deal– unless we’re on the elder side of the scale, chances are we’ll outlive our dogs. The hard part of losing a dog park friend, though, is not having the chance to say good-bye. I gave Charles my email address, and asked him to let me know if anything becomes imminent, because I’d like to see her before she goes.
I hope I have the chance to say good-bye, but I probably won’t. And I have to accept that. Dog parks and real life seldom mix, even more so for me. I can’t expect him to keep me in mind, to make special arrangements for someone he sees by accident a few dozen times a year. I’m not going to hold a grudge over it, and I’m sure I’ll love the new puppy too.
But I’m still going to miss Sienna.