I’m worried about Gaston. He makes 15 next month.
I’ve had dogs all my life, but somehow I’ve never had to deal with their old age. When I was growing up, my parents and grandparents managed the hounds, conveniently disposing of them when their time came. The ones I had in college and grad school either left with old roommates or met sudden, unfortunate ends–one at the hands of my stepmother, although she never admitted it. Oh well: that bitch is as dead as the one she ran over, so fuck her.
Gaston was essentially my first “adult” dog, and he was a total fluke. I was seeing this guy at the time, and we’d gone out for coffee, and it was still in the early stages of our relationship, when things were bubbly and giddy and hot. (He picked me up on the streetcar as we were on our way to school. It was charming.)
Anyway, we were out having coffee, and I’d gone inside for something, and when I came back out, Gaston was there, scampering around this guy’s feet. And they both looked up at me with big, brown eyes, and the guy said, “Richard, you have to take this dog, you just have to,” and I was so smitten that I would have said “yes” to anything that came out of his mouth: “You have to wear this Cosby sweater, you have to try those deviled eggs, you have to jump off this cliff right now.” Of course I took the dog home. (I should point out that the guy dumped me two months later. Not so charming.)
The dog’s name was clearly Gaston. There wasn’t a tag or anything, but he had a roguish look in his eye, and it was obvious: Gaston. Over the years, I’ve called him many other things–some, not so complimentary. He sheds like a cheap wig, and it took ten years to housebreak him (and even today, he has his moments). Still, how could anyone not love that face?
Gaston’s age has been apparent for a couple of years. He’s been moving slower, he’s nearly deaf. His seizures are the worst, though. He’s had them all his life, but they’re more violent now. Out of the blue, he’ll let out a cry like nothing I’ve ever heard–a sharp, heartbreaking mix of pain and fear and sadness. His body goes rigid, and he usually pees all over the place, and all Jonno or I can do is just get in there with him, pick him up, and stroke his head until it’s over. In ten minutes or so, he’s usually back to being his normal bizarre self.
In pack terms, the other hounds still give him honorary alpha status, but they leave him out of their reindeer games. I suppose it’s their version of kindness. He’s still got a tiny spark of spunk, and I haven’t written him off yet, but I fear he won’t be around much longer. I’m doing my best to prepare.