Creature Comforts

Self-soothing in the face of life’s vicissitudes

Christiana White


Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

My dear dog Daisy is tending to herself. She’s using her paw to delicately scratch her ear, groaning softly in relief as she does so. She’s turning onto her back and rocking from side to side on the bright Persian-style carpet beneath my dining table. And now, she’s placed her paw in her own mouth as she likes to do, as she’s done her entire life, all sixteen years and counting. She sighs contentedly.

She is old, Daisy is. Sixteen is old for a golden retriever, for sure, and it’s showing. She’s slowing down. She looks askance at the three steps she needs to navigate to get to the back door and the garden to go potty and winces as she trips down them. Sometimes her hindquarters give out and she winds up splayed on the floor until she can gather them under her again and proceed.

And proceed she does. She goes on. Her eyes are clouded with cataracts, and she appears to be pretty deaf at this point too. I wasn’t aware of how severely her faculties had dimmed until recently when we went to the park around the corner. Dogs aren’t allowed, and we have a watchdog neighbor who seems to have nothing better to do than police the park, so Daisy and I only visit this park when it’s dark. A half moon was rising, and stars speckled the sky. Daisy took off looking for tennis balls, one of her favorite things to do. She sniffs them out. That’s one faculty that seems only to have sharpened, or perhaps since the others are giving out, it’s the one she most relies on.

But this night, her sense of smell didn’t help her. She was on the other side of the park when I saw her suddenly stop, head raised high. I knew immediately she had lost me. I saw her prepare her body to run. I saw the gate behind her that we’d left open. And the street beyond that. I began calling to her, in a high, loud voice, a voice I thought she’d be sure to hear. Nothing. She began spinning around looking for me, but could not see me even though I was running toward her. She bolted for the open fence, sure I’d left, which just about broke my heart.

Finally, as I neared her, she heard me, or thought she might have, but then wheeled around and began running the wrong direction. I called her again and she eventually was able to fix her feeble senses on my general…