She’s lying by my desk snoring gently, trying to be discrete, trying to not remind me that she really should have had her arthritis medication by now.
The Senior Assistant is becoming more senior every day. It is difficult to not to notice all the white hair around her once jet black face and paws, the lessening of her once impressive muscle bulk. She used to radiate power and physical confidence. Wherever she went she was the alpha dog. Now her spine juts and sags a little, her running has slowed and stiffened and now she no longer dominates she just seems a little cranky.
The Senior Assistant is 11 years old now, which is quite an age for a big dog. She is beginning to pay the price for all the determined headlong charges she made into each new day. She has had many visits to the vet to repair muscle damage, enormous cuts to her legs, too many slashed paw pads and one almost terminal brush with haemolytic anaemia. All these bumps, cuts and conditions have taken their toll and she now cannot live life in her accustomed me-first, me-fastest, me-in-charge way.
There was a time when we went out exploring or taking photographs she would charge around relentlessly demanding attention, now there are increasing periods of plodding or having a wee lie down in a you carry on I’ll be fine kind of way. My abiding memory of the Old Man of Storr is not the magic or spirituality of the place, not the size or scale of the rocks but an early morning arrival at the gate where the tree plantation once ended and after checking that there were no sheep opening the gate for the Senior Assistant to burst out in a head-long happy charge into the vast bowl that lies below the Old Man. A tiny black dot running free in a great arc revelling in her freedom and vitality.
She used to run all day, now after our morning walk round the village, which is about a couple of miles, she is content and a bit tired. It has come time for the Senior Assistant to enter semi-retirement. Now my ever present if sometimes distant and occasionally annoying companion will be missing. I will still have the Junior Assistant but he is a lot more needy and clingy, and if I’m being honest, dim. He is a sidekick not an equal.
Very soon there shall be days when I shall put on my walking boots, gather my photo gear and head out to the car for a shoot with the Junior Assistant while telling the Senior Assistant to stay as today we are going a bit far for her. I’ll not look back at the questioning and hurt eyes under their grey brows staring reproachfully at me from the window. I’ll know it will be for her own good but it will break my heart. The words ‘constant companion’ rub a little raw at the moment…