I wake up to panting in my ear. Panting near my feet. Panting on the other side of the bed. Grendel, my 11-year-old Glen of Imaal Terrier, started panting in the middle of the night almost a year ago. It used to be accompanied by having to go eat grass outside as soon as he could, but now he takes Pepcid in the morning and night, just like many seniors do. Still, the panting. We go out into the kitchen and he has some water. I drag my phone and blanket to the sofa sectional and he goes between the other wing of the sofa to the rug to the sofa to the rug for the rest of the night. And then pants in my ear some more at some point. Or at least he did this morning. As someone who lives a half a block from a light rail station in St. Paul, I can handle automated voices, dinging electronic bells, loud talking and yelling, trains and tracks, and all sorts of things. But a terrier breathing loudly wakes me up.
Because we’re each other’s other. We are attuned to how each other is doing. He’s not my blood, but he’s the other heartbeat in my life. My life is quiet and I can hear his stomach making noises across the cavernous room while I’m working. He smacks his lips in bed, which can be so annoying that I want to give him away to the first taker. And then he curls up in my armpit so I lose feeling in my fingertips and I don’t want to move for fear that he’ll toddle his furry self away from me. So, really, I even adore his quirks. I crave his closeness and warmth. I love his smelly breath and the side-eye he gives me when I move even the slightest bit.
After all the panting this morning, it turned out that he had a bad stomach, which resulted in a race to get outside and a bath right when we got back into my loft. This is rare, and so is the “bland diet” meal of chicken and rice that I just made for him as a hopeful antidote for his messy morning. He scarfed it and is now snoozing on the sofa again, damp and tired from his eventful existence. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. As someone who’s never had a dog or pet, I’ve never lived through a life cycle of another being that’s cruelly built to last so few years. Every day is a learning process. Every night that results in that fuzzy face panting at me in the morning is another one that I give thanks for, that he’s still here and making my life about more than just me.
I depend on him and he depends on me. We are both codependent and each other’s dependent. Co-dependents. The disrupted sleep is nothing compared to what he’s given me.
Many people in this community know this co-dependency. So many seek it as rescue volunteers and foster homeowners, like Lorelei and Ian in our story about Save-A-Bull. Whether a foster or owner or parent to a pet, I laud you for adding heartbeats to your household. And I hope you find our vet section and pet marketplace in this issue useful (or entertaining) as well.
With yawns and thanks,