The thing about an old Dog is that they do tend to put life in perspective.

Their aging bodies and limited life spans increase your awareness each day is a gift.

Their joy in every simple pleasure- a meal, a pat, a soft blankie, a car ride, the smell of fresh air- reminds you to cherish every tiny delight.

They stare at you like you hung the moon as you think, Yes, yes. This is what love is. The little stuff falls away when confronted with the truth of grace in that gaze.

My Dog turned 15 this October. I decided to give him an entire month of celebration which includes lots of birthday biscuits, slow walks in the leaves where he totters for about 20 feet then calls it good, and random bursts of the happy birthday song. His yoda ears perk up each time, he knows it means something special.

Dog will of course be getting a birthday party this coming weekend. A costume/hat gala where the guest of honor will likely be dressed in his monkey costume (complete with stuffed banana) and will be served steak and ice cream. It’s going to be a great celebration. Making it to 15 is a big deal when you’re a Dog.

Dog is definitely looking old. His coat is a bit patchy, his joints wobbly, movement is hard. He got stuck on the stairs last week when I was out for the evening, because he climbed up forgetting he can’t get back down without being carried.

I found him sitting in the middle of the staircase in the dark when I got home. He was waiting patiently for me to show up and rescue him. I wondered how long he’d been stranded on those stairs, staring at the door, hoping I’d come home.

The things that break your heart.

And the things that fill your heart.

Because the other thing about an old Dog is that at this point, they have decided they have little use for ego or being top dog. They get what’s really important, and the only thing left in them is a giant heart. Nothing but pure love inside.

And gas if I’m being honest. It’s a very undesirable quality that has come with old age and seems to assert itself frequently and without invite, as I remind Dog that I am a girl and we live in a girl’s space with lots of pink and rainbows and pretty things. Only nice scents are welcome here.

It seems to make little difference to Dog though.

Life has taught me flexibility and a sense of humor when it comes to this. Especially when he is in my office or has accompanied me to a friend’s house, and one must apologize for the very obvious noise and forthcoming odor that just emerged from their tiny ball of innocent looking fur.

One friend received a handmade apology card with a drawing of a napping dog who had a mist of putrid green hanging over him. The inside said “Congratulations on your daughter’s first day of Kindergarten AND I’m super sorry my dog farted so much at your house last night.”

Dog is impervious to any criticism of this behavior. I think he feels he’s earned the right given his aged accomplishment. Perhaps someday when I am over 100, I too shall feel the same.

These days, Dog mostly wants to lay around and cuddle. He can fall asleep at the drop of a hat and takes more naps than a hobbit has meals. As long as I’m close by, he seems pretty content with his lot in life.

Every morning when we wake up, he gets a paw bump for still being here. Every Friday a verbal congratulations that he made it through another week. I take nothing for granted when it comes to him. His presence in my life is no longer the given it was when he was younger with lots of time left.

It is now a special gift.

A gift for which I have great gratitude. I tell him thank you for still being here, then I turn my gaze up to the stars above and thank them too. For him, for the gifts in my life, for the gift of love that beats in my heart.

You see, this is what this little ball of fur has given me. A grateful heart. His happy eyes and miniature presence in this world hold everything I need to know about what it is to live each day fully, and keep gratitude in one’s heart. He loves his life.

He loves his little world.

I am his world.

When I rescued him from the stairs last week and he finished washing my face with kisses and hearing his bedtime story, he looked at me before tucking into a cuddled heap of fur and blankets. It was a look of naked vulnerability that acknowledged his love and utter dependence on me.

The things that break your heart.

And the things that fill your heart.

But mostly the things that teach you about the love in your heart. For love has more than 1,000 faces and our furry friends are here to teach us as much about love as any human ever could.

Though helpless he appears, Dog has turned out to be a very wise teacher. Myself an apt student. When you put us together, well there is a lot of love in the room.

And a pair of grateful hearts.

Happy Birthday my sweet old Dog. You are a Girl’s best friend.