A dog's life

What's your requiem for a canine? One member of Salon's community, Table Talk, shares his memories of the dog he loves.

By Salon Staff
Published April 11, 2008 8:57PM (UTC)
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House and Garden

Midnight: His life.

Bill Froelich - 07:35 am Pacific Time - Apr 8, 2008

Our dog Midnight is 16 years 4 mos old. I'm beginning to wonder how much time he has left. I thought I'd start a thread to talk about Midnight while he is still alive and while I can do so without tearing up.


Feel free to discuss your elderly dog too.

When we got Midnight it was difficult convincing him to get into the car. And when we did get him in the car he'd cower on the floor between the front and back seats. Eventually he got the courage to climb up and lie down on the back seat, but he'd stay there only for as long as the car was travelling less than 35 mph and on a smooth road. Any faster or if the road was rough, it'd be back on the floor between the seats.

It took a good two years or more before Midnight would sit up on the back seat instead of lying down with a nervous look on his face but he still had to be coaxed into the car and he wasn't like a lot of (most?) dogs in another way. He didn't like his face slapped by the wind so he kept it inside the car.


Eventually he came to loving riding in the car. Anytime my wife Pat and I would go somewhere he'd want to come with. It got to the point where he and I would take rides just so I could smoke away from Pat and he could enjoy himself.

Nowadays he doesn't jump at the door when we go somewhere, and he isn't anxious to get into the car when we lead him to it. In fact, he needs help getting into the car, and he's back to lying on the back seat instead of sitting up.

Seems he's gone close to full cycle.


Pat and our 15 year old son Arthur brought Midnight home from the shelter while my friends and I were still moving furniture into our new home in Dixon, Illinois. It soon became apparent that Midnight had to have been abused by his previous owner. He hung his head, tucked his tail between his legs, and tinkled when anyone other than a woman or young person came near him.

Once we were set up in the house, I tried to make friends with Midnight, but my best efforts were to no avail. I attempted to feed him a treat out of my hand but not only would he not take it, he turned his head down, tucked his tail between his leg, and tinkled on the brand new white carpet the previous owner had installed. Pat convinced me to hold back and I did.


I did for a while, but not a long while. I recall shortly after attempting to take Midnight for a walk. I had Arthur put him on a leash and begin the walk with me walking alongside Arthur. Then I took over and Arthur went back home. Midnight, cause he was ahead of me and looking forward, didn't have a clue, but when he did turn around and see what was going on he sat right down on the sidewalk and would not budge. And nothing I did could make him budge.

Fortunately, Arthur and Pat had been watching from a window and Arthur came out to take over. It must have taken a good six to nine months more before Midnight would let me walk him.

Eventually I was able to walk Midnight, give him treats, and pet him. But just this morning as he was wandering from the living room to the kitchen, by all appearances lost, he didn't want me to pet him. I reached down and placed my hand on him but he hung his head, tucked his tail between his legs and I swear if I hadn't backed off he would have tinkled.


Pat's cousin spent thousands trying to keep her last dog alive, and in the process prolonged his very painful life for only a few weeks. We've of course had the normal expenses associated with owning a dog -- shots, kennels when we went out of town, and some relatively inexpensive meds from time to time, including at present.

Right now Midnight is on medication for his arthritis. I believe Pat said it costs $1.00/day. The other day, though, when we took Midnight in for his rabies shot, the vet said we could increase the dosage to 1 1/2 pills, making the cost $1.50/day now, still very much doable. And the medicine does seem to be working.

If we added it all together I'm sure we'd be well up in the thousands for Midnight's care but that's been since June of '92. But would we spend $10,000 in a much shorter period of time? To prolong his life for -- how long?


We have discussed the subject and agree we would never spend that much, but we never did come up with a figure we would spend. It would depend on how much pain he is in, how much of the pain will be ameliorated, and what quality of life will he have after the treatment.

It hurt when we put down our first cat, Serenity, and it took time to get over the hurt, but there was no hope for her. She had kidney failure and was in pain. The vet said Serenity could live for another week but we all asked why? So she could suffer for a week longer than otherwise? And so we could feel good about ourselves for letting her die a natural death?

I'm in a rather morbid mood today. I'm home alone with Midnight all day and the only time I see him is when he needs to be let out. Other than that he's sleeping behind the couch. I'm just afraid it won't be long and I won't see him at all.

Pat and I like to take Midnight on our walks in the woods. In the old days, Pat always liked to hold the leash 'cause when the trail went uphill Midnight pulled on the leash and gave her an assist. She jealously guarded this benefit and if she allowed me to hold the leash at all she would never allow me to hold the leash going uphill.


In fact, Pat seldom let me hold the leash. Midnight liked to sniff the ground as we walked. Every couple feet he would pause and put his nose to the ground. If I had the leash I'd give it a gentle tug to encourage Midnight to keep moving, but Pat would tell me to "quit jerking on the leash. You're going to hurt his neck." I'd try to tell her it was a gentle tug not a jerk but she never listened.

We used to take long walks, often over 3 miles, and none of us were the worse for wear. Then, as my smoking began to affect my breathing more and more, we cut down the distance and the trails' degree of difficulty.

Last summer we would walk a relative flat trail. I'd walk a half mile up the path and then stop at a picnic table while Pat and Midnight walked another half mile before turning around at a lookout. Then we'd all walk back to the car.

We took our first walk of the year last Sunday. Because I had quit smoking in August I believed I could walk all the way to the lookout with Pat and Midnight. But I never had the chance to find out. We didn't even make it to the picnic table where I used to rest and Midnight was panting heavily amd slowing down. It wasn't hot either.


We took our time and went back to the car and returned home. I think Midnight's days in the woods are over. Or if we do try another walk, I know he won't be assisting anyone uphill.

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