June 19, 2013
What I Learned From Coffee Dog
A few months ago I did a post about Gracie, the coffee dog. What I didn’t say in that post was that Gracie had been suffering from diabetes for a few years. Now the disease has progressed rapidly, bringing on complete blindness. She gets insulin shots twice a day, and she’s on a special diet, but the diabetes is affecting every part of her body, including her kidneys.
It was heartbreaking to see coffee dog struggle with everyday life. She bumped into doors, fell going down the step leading outside, hit her head on tables, and continually walked into the gate separating the kitchen from the dog room. My wife and I discussed putting her down, but on the very morning that we were talking about that—as I made a second cup of coffee—Gracie started her “coffee dog routine.” She stood at the gate, prancing in place, and barked at me. That convinced us she wasn’t ready. She was telling us, “hey, I’ve got some life left.”
What To Do?
My wife started working with her, using clicks and finger snaps to teach her where to go. Before long Gracie could get from her bed to the door without bumping into things. She learned a lot of other tricks along the way:
- She finds her way out the door quite easily now, and even gets around outside without bumping into too many things.
- She has learned where the water bowl is on the side porch, and she navigates the maze of chairs and small tables as if she had 20/20 vision.
- She knows when one of the cats approaches her, and she jumps to full alert when she hears the UPS truck rumble down the gravel drive. (UPS is an arch enemy from way back.)
- Most important of all, she knows exactly where to go in the morning when we share our coffee.
What Did I Learn From This?
To answer this question I have to bare my soul a little, and that’s something I don’t like to do. I’m getting old. There, I’ve said it, and it only took me an hour to type those words. I can’t do the things I used to. Don’t get me wrong; I feel blessed. I can still work 14-hour days—at the desk—and I still require less sleep than most people. I have my memory and wits, (my wife would argue that point) and I laugh every day. But I can’t do the physical things I used to. I can’t lay stone anymore, or pour concrete, or dig footings, or build fences. Especially not in the Texas heat. And I have to admit, the inability to do these things sometimes got me down. And then, when I least expected it…
Here Comes Gracie
Gracie showed me that life isn’t over just because you’re getting old.
- She taught me that obstacles were things to overcome, not insurmountable objects.
- She taught me persistence. When she lost her sight, she must have walked into our end table a hundred times before she learned just where it sat in her new world. And it took months for her to realize that when we opened the door, she had to wait for it to fully open before she tried going out.
- She taught me to learn from my mistakes. We have a gate between the kitchen and the dog room which presented a problem for her going in and out of the kitchen. At first, she walked into the gate all the time; now she stops and waits for someone to let her in, or out. She’s also more careful when she reaches the step to go outside. She slows, then stops and sniffs, then she treads slowly and puts one foot down until it hits ground.
- She taught me to never give up. It took her two months to learn the layout of the back porch.
- She taught me to enjoy the simple things in life—like sitting in the grass and letting a breeze blow across her face; lying next to someone, enjoying their company; curling up on the porch on a rainy day…
Or Sharing A Cup Of Coffee With An Old Friend
After seeing how much progress Gracie made in a few short months, my wife and I were impressed, and we were convinced she had time left.
Gracie is still happy. She wags her tail when she hears us. She greets us every morning with a bark. And most important of all, she still goes crazy when I make my coffee, demanding to join me on the porch for our “coffee time.”
I don’t know how long she’ll last. Hell, I don’t know how long I’ll last. But I’ve decided that while we’re both here, we’ll enjoy our time together. At least in the morning—over coffee.
Ciao, and thanks for stopping by,