Twitter Series

#TwitterSeries: ‘Old Girl’

1,000 words celebrating 1,000 followers, and my family’s dog! Enjoy, and as always, thanks for following!

Mum and Dad left to go on holiday yesterday – a spontaneous weekend getaway to Hayling Island – and Pepsi is not happy about it.

I find her sulking in her favourite spot on the couch, ears flat. She actually has tears in her eyes. The moisture has formed a hardened, gloopy mess in the corners of her eyes, so I wipe it away. She huffs through her glistening nostrils, smacks a paw on my arm. Her way of saying ‘leave me alone’. She’s never been much of a cuddler.

‘Fine, fine, I’ll leave you alone.’

Her caramel eyes have turned cataract cloudy. The vet said they’re not too bad yet. I wonder what she sees when she looks at me, what she thinks.

‘Pepsi.’ I say her name in the default, too-high singsong voice most people use when they’re talking to pets or babies. Her tail thumps against the couch and she scoots her front legs back until she’s sitting up. She pulls herself to her feet and stands there for a minute, letting her joints settle. With another huff, she takes a step onto the ottoman and lies right back down.

‘What’s wrong, girl?’

She huffs again.

I sit down on the floor by the ottoman and stroke the soft space between her ears. She doesn’t huff this time, just sticks her tongue out just enough for me to see a crescent of pink under her muzzle.

‘Come on, Pepsi. Wanna play?’

Her ears prick up and she does her little shuffle dance again. This time, she makes it to the floor, arthritic ankles clicking in protest. I ask her where her ball is, a pink rubber thing with a lattice design that’s been her favourite for years. She swishes her tail from side to side.

‘Go find your ballie!’

Usually this sends her scrambling for the hallway, but she doesn’t move. Slowly, as if defeated, she sits down on her haunches and looks up at me again.

‘Aw, girl. Are your legs bothering you?’

She answers me with a great big yawn that ends in a little whine. Her front paws slide forward, stretching out her body as she lies down.

I lie down next to her and pepper kisses on the side of her nose. This would normally elicit another huff, but she allows it, just this once. She returns my affection by licking my face – something she’s never done before. Most dogs give sloppy kisses, but Pepsi is careful not to lick too hard or too wet.

‘Aw, Peps! You’re a sweet girl after all, aren’t you?’

I retrieve a ragger from her toy box and wave it in her face. She puts her paw down on top of it.

‘You want your ballie, don’t you?’

Those ears prick up again.

‘Come on, girl! Let’s go!’

My enthusiasm rouses her to stand once again, but she doesn’t take so much as a step. I find her ball in its usual place, at the bottom of the stairs. I head back into the living room to show her.

‘Look what I found!’

This gets her moving. She gets into position at the bottom of the stairs, lowering her head and pulling her lips back into a playful snarl. She’s waiting for me to throw it up so she can catch it when it bounces back down.

‘No, girl. That’s how your legs got bad in the first place.’

I go to the kitchen to throw it for her. After a beat, she pokes her head out from the behind the stairs and moves into the hallway. It’s not as fun for her, but at least she gets to play.

I toss it to her. She catches it in her mouth without even having to move. She lies down, holding the ball between her paws for a minute before she nudges it toward me with her nose. We play like this for a little while. Each time, she does the same thing – holds the ball, then nudges it back to me.

When I think she’s had enough, I take it away and whistle. ‘Outside?’

She waits patiently by the back door while I retrieve the key. While she’s carefully hopping over the threshold, I get a few treats out for her. She chomps them up and makes quick work of having one last wee before bedtime. In less than two minutes, she’s standing by the door again, waiting on me to let her in.

I lock up and turn off all the lights downstairs apart from the hall light.

At the bottom of the stairs, Pepsi looks up at me, unsure. ‘Come on, girl, I gotcha.’

We start our ascent one stair at a time. She glances over at me a few times to make sure I’m still there supporting her. ‘It’s okay, I’m right here. Don’t worry, Mummy and Daddy will be back tomorrow and you won’t have to put up with me.’

When we reach the top, she stretches and clicks her way into Mum and Dad’s bedroom. The bed is slightly unmade – a result of Pepsi’s free roam the past few days.

‘Jump up?’ I pat the bed.

She goes over to Dad’s side, raring to get up, but not quite building the courage to put all her weight on her back legs. She looks over at me again, so I help her, lifting her up onto the bed.

‘Sometimes I wish I had half your spirit, Peps. I know a lot of people who would lay right there on that settee and not move a muscle. But you? You always get up to play, no matter how long it takes or how bad you’re hurting.’

Her tongue hangs out the side of her mouth when she smiles.

‘You sure are one special ol’ lady, Peps.’

I give her a kiss on the top of her head and cut off the light. When I look back to tell her good night, her eyes are already closed.

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