In The Place Where You Live

In the months before Tango passed, he worked out this ritual that, I admit, at the time seemed just as frustrating as it did charming — although, in retrospect, that frustration came as much from fear and sadness and stress knowing that he was not healthy and wondering if it was a sign of something else going on, instead of simply being what it appeared on the face of things.

Nonetheless, what he started doing was this: as was his manner, he’d run toward the back door with no small level of urgency, as if he really needed to get outside before his increasing incontinence got the better of him. One of us would run after him, and open doors to usher him outside with great speed, at which point, he’d just… stop.

It wasn’t just that he didn’t actually need to piss or shit; as soon as he’d get outside, he’d just stop, entirely. He’d stand there, and lift his face up slightly. By this point, he was mostly deaf and mostly blind, I should point out, so it was extremely unlikely that he was looking at anything in particular, or listening out for a specific thing. He just was standing there.

He was, however, sniffing. It was the one sense we’re pretty sure didn’t desert him towards the end. (He even seemed disinterested in food more than once, so it’s possible his taste started to fade, too, and his sensitivity to touch was an open question, but that might simply have been age and arthritis.) He’d stand and sniff the air, and it was as if he was being particularly appreciative of where he was in the world at that moment.

I was thinking about that this weekend, in part because new dog Alfie seemed to do the same thing for a second before getting distracted by something I can’t remember. Watching him do that made me nostalgic, and particularly sad that Tango wasn’t around anymore, but it also made me feel as if Tango had worked something out that I struggle with: how to just exist in the moment and be grateful for it.

Maybe, one day, I’ll be able to be more like Tango was, and not just in terms of incontinence or, I don’t know, going blind or whatever.

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