Rachel Maizes writes about Chance, her aging Australian Shepherd mix in an essay in The New York Times. I sympathize with her struggles trying to live with what she calls a “bad dog”:
Yet in some ways, I am the perfect owner for Chance. An introvert, I identify with his desire to be left alone. I empathize with his feelings of jealousy. When Steve and I married and Tilly transferred her loyalty to him, lying at his feet instead of mine, I could hardly suppress my rage.
It’s easy to love a well-behaved dog. It’s harder to love Chance, with his bristly personality and tendency toward violence. Yet in the end, I measure the success of my relationship with Chance by its challenges, because if I can’t love him at his most imperfect what use is love?
In his old age Chance has mellowed. When we walk, he attends to what is directly in front of him, a flagpole or a mailbox, barely sensing other dogs. It takes us 40 minutes to go around the block, but when I look at him he grins. It’s his favorite time of day and mine.
I try to be gentle with Chance, hoping when the time comes others will be gentle with me. When I catch myself tugging his leash, I remind myself these are his last days and to enjoy them.