Today my baby girl, my little Lulu-belle, celebrates her eighth birthday. Using the conventional wisdom that one human year is equal to seven dogs years, this means she is 56 in dog years, which makes her middle-aged, and older than I am. And breaks my heart.
Dogs are the perfect human companions. They are friendly, loyal, affectionate, smart, and fit in so naturally to our lives. They adjust to their owners schedules, moods and lifestyles, and ask little in return other than sustenance, love and a chance to go out and sniff nature and other dog’s back-ends from time to time. But they are imperfect in that their lifespans are so much shorter than ours, and if you’ve ever loved and lost a dog, you know how devastating it can be.
For me, birthdays are a time for reflection. I look back at the years that have passed, and forward at those yet to come. I know it’s too early to be dwelling on her mortality, and I’m hoping my baby girl has many, many healthy years ahead, because I can’t imagine life without her.
Lulu has been my heart for the past eight years. She came into my life right after I moved into a one-bedroom apartment that I had (finally) purchased, and for the first time since college, I was officially living alone. It would have been very lonely without my canine companion, but she was there for me 24/7, greeting me with joy and zoomies when I came home from work, providing a constant reminder to get out and enjoy the neighborhood where we lived for which I had paid premium real estate bucks.
Shortly thereafter my father fell on the stairs outside his home and after a long hospital stay, ended up an invalid with a live-in caregiver. Watching him go slowly downhill since then, losing his mobility, his personality, and his inate intelligence has been devastating. Watching my mother, his wife, deal with it equally so. There have been days when I wanted to pull the covers over my head and hide, but you can’t do that when you have a little doggie standing on your chest reminding you that there is a world outside your door that must be explored and experienced.
Lulu has also been a great comfort as the college where I work has gone through years of woes: financial, administrative, possible loss of accreditation and threat of closure. Morale, to say the least, is low, and again, there have been days when I would have dragged myself home and crawled right back under those covers if not for my Lulu, who always greets me with such unconditional love and happiness that I forget my troubles, and the stress of the day just melts away.
Lulu is so much a part of my marriage that I can not imagine my husband and my dynamic without her. She has been with us since the beginning of our courtship. We are not just husband and wife, but also Lulu’s Mama and Papa. We care for each other and we care for her, which in turn makes us care even more for each other. When my husband travels for business, I miss him, but feel better knowing that I am not entirely alone, as Lulu sleeps by my side and barks at all the things that go bump in the night. Losing her would be like losing a limb.
My concerns led to a web search which provided some comforting information:
– Size matters when it comes to a dog’s lifespan. Small dogs live longer than large ones.
– Mutts tend to live longer and have less health problems than pure-bred dogs
– Just as with humans, good nutrition proper exercise and regular healthcare can all help prolong a dog’s life.
– When calculating a dog’s age, you should take into account their size. A large dog who is eight in human years is 55 in dog years. A medium sized dog would be 51, and a small dog would be 48.
– Chihuahuas have a life expectancy of 15 years or longer and terriers about 15 years.
All of which tell me that while my Lulu may also be “halfway-there”, we can still look forward to celebrating more birthdays. So “Happy 8th Birthday”, my little waggly-tushie’d sweetheart. And many, many more.