At Home with Whisper
This time of year is an opportunity to be thankful for all the many blessings in my life. Even in the time of COVID, especially in the time of COVID, I give thanks for the company and devotion of my dogs.
I presently have three in my apartment and in my life. Treasure, a Bichon bitch, a gift from a dear friend and breeder in California, age 11. Charlie, a Toy Poodle, recently home from his show career, energetic, age 4. Whisper just celebrated her 16th birthday and is my ever so constant companion.
Whisper has been with me for most of her life. Born in Michigan with her sister, Whistle, she spent her first two years away, first with her breeder and then with her handler. Her show career lasted 18 months with modest success and then she arrived home to live with me in Connecticut.
Whisper joined a pack of Bichons and Toy Poodles. Her sister, Whistle, was a firecracker, a huge personality with tons of energy, always the center of attention. Whisper, her own soul, folded easily into the pack. For ten years Whisper lived in Whistle’s shadow - quiet, undemanding, allowing attention to go to elsewhere. Very sweet, independent, seemingly not unhappy in the background.
Two years ago her sister died. Whisper became the only Toy Poodle in the house amidst several Bichons. Slowly but surely she began to move out of the shadows, to begin to demand some notice.
For the past several years Whisper has struggled with orthopedic issues and now aging. She walks with difficulty, has lost all her teeth and her vision is seriously compromised with cataracts. As her movement is complicated by arthritis, she has become dependent on me for almost everything.
Our life has settled into one of complete codependency. We spend much, much time together and have our daily rituals.
I carry her around the apartment, putting her down gingerly to stand for food, water and bathroom, moving her to wherever we are.
We go for a very slow and unsteady walk outside each day, half a New York City block on a downgrade, an opportunity for her to be in the world. In arms she occasionally accompanies me to Starbucks.
We arise once or twice in the night for Whisper to pee and drink some water
She eats breakfast, supper and treats at specified times throughout the day. If I forget or run late, she reminds me.
Medications, twice daily, incased in foods that often change once she discovers the subterfuge.
At 10PM each night she reminds me that we have our time. This may be holding or close contact, whatever she decides. She may climb into my lap or snuggle by my side. Whisper lets me know when time is over.
Essentially a cripple, Whisper is my constant companion. If I need to be away for an extended period of time, Whisper is with me. We are together. She comes to meetings and on the rare weekend visit. We travel twice a month for her acupuncture appointments and, occasionally, step out for lunch or dinner.
Whisper is the perfect traveling companion although often she would rather not. I know this because when she sees the car she toddles off in the other direction. Once in, she rides in her crate, sits quietly in her carrier at meetings and on my lap whenever possible. She is happy to sleep there, is quiet and unobtrusive.
Whisper calls the shots. She is clear in her intentions and desires. Years ago when we tried to breed her, she had two pregnancies that never reached term. Asked later, Whisper told us she did not want puppies. That trait persists today.
This time together with Whisper is sweet. We have a new and close relationship. She commands my attention by smacking her mouth, a grunt, a bark or a paw punch. We communicate with a look. I have come to know when she wants water, food, to go to the papers or now, in the evening, our special time.
I am surprised that this chapter in Whisper’s life is such a joy for me. We are a team. Rather than an imposition, I find pleasure in caring for her. Our relationship is not unlike a long term marriage. I know her every request, her preferred schedule.
My dogs have always been my spiritual teachers. Whisper has shown me fortitude in the face of discomfort and pain, acceptance in adversity and patience as she waits for me to fulfill her requests. She exhibits elegance in old age. I am grateful for her company.