What do we do when our loving pets face the last leg of the race? We do all we can to help them finish well, of course. We take time to read the unspoken needs of the friends we've come to know so well. We give the simple reassurance of a loving touch when the old boy seems confused for no reason. We groom them faithfully, but more gently, as age brings muscle wasting, and the arthritic bones aren't so well padded. We learn to slow down for their sake, as they enjoy the scent of the wind, or track a visitors trail across their yard. We expect to be inconvenienced, and aren't angry when it happens. We watch for pain and treat it, watch for changes in vision and hearing and do what we can to help preserve those precious senses for as long as possible. We take care of their teeth, and make sure their food is a manageable texture for them. We remind them of the need for a potty walk when they seem to forget. We remember the little rewards. We scratch the graying ears and tummy, and go for car rides together. When the pet we love has an unexplained need for comfort, we give it freely. When infirmities bring a sense of vulnerability, we become our old guardian's protector. We watch their deepest slumbers, when dreams take them running across long-forgotten fields, and we remember those fields too. When they cannot stand alone, we lift them. When their steps are uncertain, we steady them. And if their health fails, it falls to us to make the choice that will gently put them to rest. But until that is absolutely necessary, we pause to let the autumn sun warm our old friend's bones. And we realize, autumn is not a bad time of year at all. Old age is not a disease or a reason to give up. It is a stage of life that brings its own changes. Autumn can be a beautiful time of harvest. And, sometimes, the harvest is love.
author-- Christy Caballero