Pawprints on my heart

Pets leave pawprints on our hearts.

We have a very old dog. He’s deaf and sleeps pretty much all the time. I suppose he thinks he’s earned it, in his “retirement years”. But he still manages to wake up for two events each day: When it’s time for the kids to get home from school, and when it’s time for dinner. I don’t know how he knows, but every day at 3.15pm he’s waiting by the door to be patted by kids newly arrived home from school, and at 5pm he’s next to his bowl barking for food.

In many ways, having a deaf dog is great practise for parenthood. Because when he is naughty, there is absolutely no point in yelling at him, because he can’t hear us. So we spend a lot of time muttering curses under our breath and cleaning up after the naughty things he’s done. (Much like parenting.) And he’s a beagle, which means that if there’s food around, he can be very naughty indeed.

The other day I made the mistake of leaving a packet of pretzels in my handbag, which was a serious rookie move, because I’ve lived with this dog for over a decade and you’d think I’d have learned by now. But my handbag was on my bed and the door was shut — or so I thought. Master Five decided he neeeeeeeeeeeded something from my bedroom, and opened the door. And our dog was in there like a shot. Just like he somehow knows when it’s time for the kids to come home from school and time for dinner, he also somehow knows when there’s a packet of pretzels in my bag.

When I came up to my bedroom later that evening, I didn’t realise something was amiss — until I saw the pawprints. The dog had been outside at some point just before The Pretzel Incident, and he left evidence in the shape of six dusty pawprints on my clean white sheets. The pawprints led to my handbag, which appeared untouched. Of course he’d managed to snaffle the pretzels without disturbing anything else in the bag. He’s good. Oh, he’s good. A bit like my kids, who are always thieving my lip balm, or gold coins from my wallet when there’s a sausage sizzle on at school.

While I changed the sheets, muttering profanities under my breath, I reflected that our dog is old, and will probably not be around for that much longer. This is only natural, I know. He’s had a good life, eaten more than his fair share of things which should probably have killed him much sooner (like that time he ate 52 freshly baked chocolate-chip cookies off the bench where they were cooling), and been the recipient of many an expensive veterinary procedure or medication to prolong and improve his little doggy life (pro tip: Get pet insurance). In return, he’s provided many cuddles, given us a great deal of joy, and warmed my toes on many a cold winter’s night. He was even the ringbearer at my wedding. I think it’s been a pretty fair exchange.

And someday, long after the dog has gone to that great big handbag of illicit treats in the sky, my kids will leave home too. The carpets will finally be clean. I won’t step on Lego in the middle of the night. No one will wake me up because they vomited all over their bed. There won’t be any homework to do or chores to argue over. I will finally make it to the bottom of the laundry pile.

Hang in there, parents. We’re in the thick of it now, but someday, we’ll look back and think that the days were long but the years were short — and we’ll miss those pawprints on the sheets and those crayon marks on the walls. And maybe by then I’ll be ready for another dog — and grandkids.

Katherine Granich

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