It started as just a little nagging, a thought stored in the back of my brain earlier this year. One of those things that I knew was inevitable, but just didn't want to deal with it.
Alli is getting older.
It's hard to think it, harder to say it, and a whole bunch harder to type it. That sentence took several attempts and a couple of big breaths. She's starting to get her powder face, where the white fills in around the muzzle and eyes. She likes to stop for a moment on runs and walks, especially if the day is on the warm side. I knew it would happen--getting older is always better to the alternative, of course, and I knew I wouldn't have this baby forever.
She was a pistol at that size; the girl never stayed still, unless sleeping, until she was 18 months old. She saw the baby gate blocking her in the kitchen as an obstacle over which to jump, leaving her older sister, Hannah, the dutiful Lab, sitting in the kitchen wondering what was up with this little German bitch. She was such a fireball, I often said, "The only thing that keeps you alive is how cute you are." If she were a boy dog, I would have called her Dickens, since she was full of it.
Allison came into my life on a whim. Ex2 and I had talked about getting another dog, since Hannah had so much fun with other dogs at the park. I had my heart set on a Bull Terrier or a German Shorthaired Pointer. Since Ex2 liked to hunt, he found a GSP breeder in a little town called Vienna the afternoon after our conversation.
With my heart set on a GSP bitch, we had the choice of four little girls. One picked on Hannah, so she was out. One wasn't particularly interested in us, so she was out. The third was an absolute stunner and it was obvious she was gonna have a beautiful brownhead and lots of the white and roan ticking in her coat, just like the GSP at the dog park that got me interested in the breed.
I picked up the stunner and was giving her a cuddle test drive. But then, I felt something on my knee and looked down into the kindest eyes I have ever seen. It's been said that your dog actually picks you and my experience with that, well...
Maybe love at first sight is possible. I tear up a bit just thinking about that precious face. She was all liver, with a tiny white spot on her chest and a touch of white on the front paws. Not anything like the GSPs I looked at on the internet or saw in the dog shows. I dropped the stunner like a hot potato. There was no other dog for me.
We knew she was going to be named Allison, after my dear friend who had passed away that summer. Allison, the human, was a dog lover. She had cancer and was in so much pain at the end of her life. The last time I visited her at the hospital, she couldn't really talk, but I told her I was leaving to "Go walk my Bitch," and she gave me a huge smile. I know she was laughing.
Perhaps Allison the human had something to do with Allison the dog coming into my life. I just knew that needed to be her name because Allison the human would have giggled that I called her name when I wanted my bitch to come. Yes, Allison and I were cut from the same cloth.
So fast forward a decade and there's a touch of cloudiness in Alli's kind eyes. I had to make the incredibly difficult decision to start leaving her at home for the long runs after noticing her shoulder having trouble recovering after a 15 miler.
Odd waters to navigate, this getting older. Our relationships with our dogs are so simple 95% of the time--damn the 5%. We take them in knowing we will almost certainly outlive them and still develop the strongest of bonds. I don't know if there is a stronger relationship where you take something from cradle to grave in such a short amount of time. And while I am sure that Alli has many good years left with me, witnessing the slower pace is humbling. I took for granted that she would always be able to run as far as I wanted because she was Alli, the kind, beautiful girl who outlasted any relationship that I ever thought meant anything. She was always the most important one. She is The Dog. She is always teaching me--if you've been reading any of these posts along the way, you know that. And I would have never been ready for Joey, the canine version of me, if Alli hadn't been here first, tidying things up and helping me learn how to live and how to love. Now she's teaching me patience.