Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Beach

Since he was very young we've been taking Rio to the beach. At first, it was to a recognized dog beach to help him gain some social skills with other dogs. However, once he discovered "the ball", his main objective in going there was to retrieve. Endlessly. Like a job. Like a machine. He loved the smell of the ocean, the sounds, the feel of the sand as it coated his wet fur and ground itself into his mouth as he rolled around, over and over again.

So, it didn't take very long for us to figure out what he would most love to do with his remaining time. "Eat human food!" was obviously at the top of the list, but running a close second was a trip to the beach.

We drove him there and as usual, within a few miles from our destination he became excited. Even though we were on the highway I rolled the windows down so that he could take in the maximum number of olfactory treats possible. He began his trademark whine of anticipation as we got closer, and once we were out of the car he nearly drug us all the way to the sand, even with one nearly useless leg.

We were unsure whether it was wise to let him off the leash, thinking that he might decide to run and break an already weakened rear leg, but we did it anyway. He wanted badly to fully appreciate the beach as he had always done, and given that it was his last visit we gave in.

After just a few minutes it was clear that his joint was visibly swollen, so we put him back on the leash, but he pulled hard to make us walk faster. We decided to let him roll around in the sand, and he really did seem to love just being there. Our trips to the beach have become less and less frequent as his eyesight has declined, mostly because he became less and less able to find the toy we'd throw and more afraid of the powerful waves. He would still fetch sticks that we'd throw into lakes and slow rivers, but the ocean was just a little too much for him at this point.

He rolled over and over, back and forth between the two of us, soaking up the sun and the sounds of the birds and the waves. We tried not to look at the enormous swollen joint which still bore the stitches from Monday's bone biopsy.

It was a good day for a dog.

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