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Little dog, big heart

I even have a watercolor of him, a gift from one of my readers, and the other day I caught him looking at his own portrait. It’s a dog selfie.

I have sad news.

One of my dogs, a black-and-tan Cavalier named Little Tony, isn’t doing so well. At 13 years old, he has congestive heart disease, and his heart is failing.

It seems impossible, for a dog that’s all heart.

I know many of you have been in this situation, which has a very cruel sort of sadness, because I know he’s dying and he doesn’t.

That disconnect makes it harder.

I had the hard talk with the vet, one which I’m sure many of you have had, where I’m told what to expect at the very end of Tony’s life, which could be sooner, or later, God only knows.

So the time we have left is Tony Time.

Almost every day, I take him out in the stroller, since he isn’t supposed to exert himself, and he loves the ride, sitting up, looking around, and taking in the sights. He never tries to get out, tacitly acknowledging that he deserves a sedan chair.

All dogs do.

I carry him up and down the stairs, because the strain would be too much, and he waits for me to pick him up, looking from me to the stairs and back again, the way dogs look at what they want. I’ve learned to groom him myself, since the vet doesn’t think he could take the stress, so you can imagine he looks raggedy, with tufts of hair in uneven patches.

In other words, adorable.

He has to be hand-fed, and I think he enjoys that, looking up at me and happily chewing away. The vet said I should make food to put some weight on him, so he gets fresh chicken twice a day.

It’s a series of last meals, without knowing which one is really the last.

He’s on two heart pills a day, with extra peanut butter.

Tony accepts all without complaint or resistance, understanding this is the way things are now. The other dogs accord him a deference they hadn’t before, nor do they try and play with him.

They know.

I’m wondering now if he does.

Certainly he knows he doesn’t feel as well as he used to, and though he’s in no pain, he’s just slowing down. And the vet said to keep him cool, so I run the air conditioner 24/7, and he has his own personal fan.


I’m his biggest fan.

I secretly think he loves Francesca more. He wags his tail whenever she’s home, and we’re both convinced he thinks she’s his girlfriend.

And, to my eye, Little Tony only gets cuter as his days get shorter. He’s a little wobblier than he used to be, and since Cavaliers have overgrown fur on their feet called slippers, he’s actually shuffling around in slippers.

If I had a bathrobe, I’d give it to him.

I’m taking plenty of pictures of him, mindful they are for the not-too-distant future, when he’s no longer around. I even have a watercolor of him, a gift from one of my readers, and the other day I caught him looking at his own portrait.

It’s a dog selfie.

And though the analogy isn’t perfect, I find myself remembering when my wonderful father was in hospice. He didn’t want to make his illness a big thing, so instead, we made memories.

And went to Cirque du Soleil.

I’ll never forget sitting next to him and seeing his face as he watched acrobats soaring through the air on pink-and-green wings. He cried with joy and wonder.

So did I.

What I feel now for Tony is joy and wonder.

For having him just a little bit longer.

For having him at all.

We love our animals their whole lives.

And ours, too.

Look for Lisa’s best-selling historical novel, “Eternal,” in stores now. Also look for Francesca’s critically acclaimed debut novel, “Ghosts of Harvard,” now in paperback.