Today while I was taking Roscoe for his morning walk a construction worker crossed the street to talk to me. He was a neatly dressed guy in his 50s with Dennis Farina hair. He was messing with his phone, but looking up to make sure I was still in front of him.
"Hey," he said, "I was watching your pug walk. I mean, I saw you yesterday too. It's the nerves right? Neurological stuff?"
I nodded, Roscoe's walk has been getting worse over the last month. We don't really go for walks so much as stands. The walking part is complicated, but the standing we enjoy. I steeled myself to hear his opinion of what I should do about it. As I said before, everyone feels compelled to warn me or judge me about his walk.
He showed me his phone and there was a picture of sweet-faced girl pug looking right into the camera.
"She had it too, the nerve stuff. Is he falling over?"
I said he was.
"It's so hard. I have two other dogs and she used to try and run with them and just fall right on her side. Yeah, she just died about six months ago. Is he having trouble controlling the... uh... bathroom stuff?"
"She had to wear diapers. If you decide to do that, go to Costco and get baby diapers and cut a hole for the tail. The dog diapers at Petco are a rip off."
I told him Roscoe was 14. I asked him how old she was when she died.
"She was 11. I have a Jack Russell who's 17 and he's healthy as a horse. She was special though. I keep thinking I'm going to get another pug, but it doesn't seem right. She was really my wife's dog. I used to take her to visit my wife in the hospital when she was in for breast cancer. Stuff her right in a backpack. The nurses would come in and try to figure out why my wife's blood pressure and pulse were so high. She just got so excited to see her pug."
He told me a little about his other dogs and apologized for talking to me but said he couldn't help himself.
"You know, when my wife died of the cancer four years ago, she well... she was the one who always took care of me. So, when she died she asked me to take care of her pug. That was the only thing she wanted. So, I took good care of her. That's why she had to wear the diapers. She slept on my wife's side of the bed with me every night. That's where they both died. Right there in bed."
I told him I was sorry and started to tear up.
"Oh no, I didn't come over to make you feel bad. Besides she," he said indicating the pug, "went quietly, 2:30 in the morning laying there in her diapers. It was OK. They're good dogs, nothing like them. I just can't bring myself to get another one. Take good care of him while you can."
Then he rubbed Roscoe's face in just the way pugs like to have their faces rubbed.
I am very lucky.