The Last Walks with Dexter

It is very therapeutic walking with a geriatric, arthritic dog.  It does not matter if we are running late and if we don’t hurry will miss the school bus.  It does not matter if it starts to rain and we are without an umbrella.  It does not matter.  It does not matter because these days, walking with Dexter, there is only one speed, slow and constant.  That is the only speed he can go.

Dexter walking with Carter

Carter and Dexter

Dexter is our sweet German Shepherd mix.  He turned twelve this July.  As of late his arthritic hips have been giving him a hard time.  He struggles to get up.  He struggles to get down.  He struggles to get out the doggie door in time to do his business outside.  More and more often he does not make it in time. Once he is up and moving however, he can maintain a slow and steady pace.

Every morning unless the rain is heavy we walk the quarter mile to the bus stop.  We watch Cody get on the school bus and then Carter, Dexter, and I walk the quarter mile back home.  On our walks home we used to have impromptu games of hide and seek in the small open field (where there is really only one tree and one shrub worthy of hiding behind.)  We used to pick green or red apples from the orchard at the back of this field to nibble on while we walked.  We used to examine the almost invisible hole in the ground that a group of bees call home just behind and to the right of that great hiding tree.  We used to watch our ant friends move with purpose and conviction, walking along a tiny path from their hill to the blackberry bushes, a path worn by thousands and thousands of little ant feet, a path we have lovingly named The Ant Highway.  We used to play leaf boat in the natural creek that runs alongside the field.

Carter w apple playing leaf boats

Carter eating an apple and watching his leaf boat in the creek.

We no longer take these little side trips on our morning walks; Dexter’s legs can only hold him up for so long.  It is on the rare afternoon when we don’t have to rush to a swim lesson or a physical or occupational therapy appointment that I leave Dexter at home happily chewing on a treat and we get to pretend fish in the creek or visit our ant friends.  It is the colder months and there is less activity anyway.  The ants are sleeping under their warm dry thatch of browned grasses and dead pine needles.  The apples are no longer any good for eating.

We don’t mind the change, at least I don’t.  Carter can and does run up ahead to play or examine an interesting beetle or moss patch while Dexter and I bring up the rear, slowly.  It is nice to know that for those moments, rushing or hurrying is simply not an option.  I find myself looking forward to these walks and I know that someday, sooner than I would like, these moments will be gone.

And so we walk and we let Dexter sniff and take all the time he needs.  There is no rushing. If we miss the bus so be it, I can always drive Cody to school.  These last walks, however many more there will be, they are for Dexter.

About Shoes

I am an elementary school teacher, a former microbiologist, a mom to a herd of two boys, and a grilled cheese sandwich and beer connoisseur.
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31 Responses to The Last Walks with Dexter

  1. What a sweetie…no wonder you’re so fond of our Cleo.
    Wishing you many more walks with your Old Friend. 🙂

    • shoes says:

      Finding Cleo in your four o’ clock photo always makes me smile. 🙂 I sure hope we have many more walks but he is getting stiffer and I am starting to worry that he may be in some pain. Such a tough time.

      I don’t think I will be able to do the 4 o’clock photo post with you all as I hoped I would. I am rarely home at that time (swim lessons, bus stop pick ups, etc) and it is very dark at that time in our little woods. I will continue to enjoy yours though!

  2. How wonderful that you are cherishing these special moments with a sweet friend. I hope there are many more. Your writing is so engaging and often brings tears to my eyes, this post was no exception.

    • shoes says:

      We have had Dexter since he was just a little pup. He has always been very much the momma’s boy, my furry shadow where ever I go. It is strange to leave a room and not have him follow me anymore. He is just too tired and it breaks my heart a little.

      Thanks you for you sweet words, they truly mean a lot to me.

  3. mimijk says:

    I’m babysitting my sister’s 14 year old pup Harpo. He’s deaf and almost completely blind, with a hitch in his step. But – he’s a happy guy and for as long as he’s here, he’s going to be a pampered loved guy. As always, I am moved by the tenderness of your writing and accompanying pics..hugs, m

    • shoes says:

      I am sure Harpo is being spoiled while you babysit him. Older dogs are just so sweet and kind. As long as Dexter is getting around enough and is happy we will take our walks and pamper him. Thank you for the kind comment about my writing – it is comments like yours that give me such a warm fuzzy feeling.

  4. Nicole says:

    This is so cute!

  5. Jo Ann says:

    You are such a good dog person to make Dexter’s last days happy. They are such good friends – to do any less would be unforgivable. And you’re teaching your son wonderful lessons about patience and compassion.

    • shoes says:

      Dexter has been such a great friend and companion over all these years. He deserves our patience and respect especially in his twilight. I am so very glad my boys have gotten to grow up with him and I know that he has left such an impact on them that they will have fond memories of him over the course of their lives.

      Thank you for stopping by and leaving me such a kind comment Jo Ann.

  6. Awww! This brought back such memories. We had a German Shepherd mix named Maggie. She passed away 2 1/2 years ago and had similar problems. She was also 12 at the time. 😦 So glad you are cherishing your time with Dexter and I hope you are able to take many more walk with him!

    • shoes says:

      It is so hard to loose a pet, especially one that has been with you for so long. We lost our other dog Rosy earlier this year (she was 13 and had cancer). I really do try to take that extra time to enjoy his company. For about a year now, the very first thing I do when I get up in the morning is go over to Dexter’s bed and spend a minute or two talking to him and giving him scritchings and hugs. I fear that our walks are numbered as he starts to fall more often. And then we will have to make that hard decision.

  7. Hetterbell says:

    This is such a poignant post. Dogs can be such wonderful friends. I hope you and Dexter can share as many special strolls together as possible along that treasured route that you have described.

    • shoes says:

      Thank you, I hope we have many more strolls left too. His health is starting to decline as old age catches up with him but I am glad he still loves his walks with us – and such a lovely walk it is.

  8. Mary Ann says:

    Beautifully written post. Dexter is lucky to have you and vice versa!

  9. Deborah the Closet Monster says:

    I’m sniffling reading this. Ba.D.’s constantly reminding me to slow down, and this . . . this reveals more than any terse admonitions why it’s important I do so.

    Maybe I need to imagine I, too, am walking with Dexter.

    • shoes says:

      It is very important and while I am saddened by Dexter’s ailments and old age, he is giving me that much needed reminder to slow down and just flow.

      Feel free to take an imaginary Dexter on a walk or two. Just remember to bring an imaginary bag to pick up after him – I don’t want him getting a bad reputation with the neighbors.

  10. christiana83 says:

    Poor Dexter, it is hard to watch the ones we love grow old, human or animal. 😦

    • shoes says:

      Yes it is. He has had a great life with us and we are lucky to have had him as part of our family for so long. I don’t think he will make it through the winter at the rate he is going. It is going to be hard on all of us when he goes.

  11. Beautifully written. I have an old dog too, I understand.

  12. Alpine Mummy says:

    Aw that’s really lovely. So nice that you have some good memories of him. I hope he stays with you and happy for some time yet x

    • shoes says:

      He is such a sweetheart and it is nice to take these walks with him, for him, and really be able to enjoy them. I hope he is around for quite a while longer but his health has been getting slowly worse and I do worry that he may not make it into the next season.

  13. Jodi says:

    This post makes me so sad, especially for you all, so quickly after losing Rosie. I do hope you have some more time with Dexter, but slow walks are special in their own way.

  14. so moving. 🙂 my boxer is 13 and you touched my heart. thanks

    • shoes says:

      Thank you for you kind comment. I hope you and your sweet boxer have many great years ahead of you. It is so very hard to watch our furry friends get older and slow down. Dexter is part of our family and will be greatly missed when he is gone.

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