Nine years ago, like any new parents, we scrambled around our house trying to child proof everything in sight. Knives were removed from the counter, cabinets secured with baby proofing gadgets, knick knacks removed. Gates on the stairs. Cleaning chemicals put away.

This was all before our son could even hold his head up because one day he would hold his head up, then crawl, then walk and then probably grab a shiny sharp knife off the counter or try to play in the Soft Scrub, so, well, we were just being safe.

More safety measures included securing the door to the basement with a hook-eye fastener so that it couldn’t be opened by a short person. I’d have to stand on my tip toes, usually with laundry basket in hand, to make my way down to the damp unfinished basement. And I usually reserved that chore early on for when a child was napping to doubly ensure no falls down those rickety stairs to that hard, cold, concrete floor.

And nine years and two kids later, there were a few items of our child proofing stuff that remained in tact. So, just a few weeks ago, I took the last few cabinet and drawer safety gadgets off and tossed them in the trash. Now, the only evidence that we ever did baby proof our house was a few remaining outlet covers and the hook-eye on the basement.

In those nine years, luckily there had been no falls down the basement steps.

But last night, I threw a load in the washer, climbed the stairs and left the door open a jar as I headed to my daughter’s bedroom to gather more laundry for the load.

And that is when I heard the most awful sound. It was the sound of a body hitting several rickety old wooden basement steps. And then silence.

I ran down stairs as fast as I could and found,surprisingly and thankfully, both of my children sitting in front of the TV, physically intact, but looking concerned about the noise. I screamed “What was that?” as my heart continued to race. “Did you hear that?”

Heading down the hall, that’s when I saw the basement door was opened. I looked down and there I found our 13-year-old Dalmatian standing at the bottom. Thankfully he was standing.

I ran down the stairs and hugged him profusely, checking him for hurt. He seemed okay, I thought and figured at least he was standing.

Checkers suffers from Degenerative Myelopathy, a condition that affects his spinal cord and makes his back legs looks like they are sinking. He doesn’t know he is doing it, as his nerves are not telling his brain what is going on.

Climbing the stairs has become a chore for him these days. And combined with the fact that he is almost deaf, he must have not realized I was upstairs and gone down to look for me. I think he must have tried to get back upstairs but he just couldn’t make it all the way. The problem likely happened when he stopped.

Looking back, that was the noise I heard. His nails scraping the wood and him falling backwards. Ugh. The poor old guy.

I cleaned up some basement dirt off his white body and tried to coax him back up. He wanted no part of that. So I had to grab him by his hind quarters, all 68 pounds of him, and lead him up. Thankfully we made it without incident, save a few back pains on my part. Since my husband is away, I was unsure what I would have done if I couldn’t get him up. But I did and he seems okay.

It’s ironic how I thought we were in the clear. I had always been careful with that basement door. In fact, I think I traumatized the kids about it by putting the fear of God in them if they even came near that open door.

It didn’t occur to me that Checkers would be the one to fall. Thankfully he is okay.

So it’s out of the childproofing years and into the keeping-the-old-dog-safe years.

I’ll have to rethink my daily doings. Knowing my old pal will follow me around, especially when his best friend, my husband, is off on business, I will have to keep that door closed. As it is, we are up many times during the night for Checkers to do his business. And he paces a lot, an old man trying to rest his old bones but not finding that comfortable spot.

I had a hard time sleeping last night. I kept thinking about how time passes so quickly. With pets, well, it goes very quickly.

He has been with us for 12 years. We got him as a mere pup from a rescue and it was love at first sight for he and my husband.

70 pounds of love

It has been only recently that he has begun to show his age. He can’t go on the long trail runs with my husband any more, but every now and again, he shows his puppy side. He’ll grab something and run, shred a package, be his mischeivous self. Even more so since we have added black strap molasses and coconut oil to his diet. (Highly recommended for ahem, “mature” humans, too.)

Checkers is getting on in years, and it makes us all sad to think about. He sleeps a lot more and I find myself looking at him a lot. To make sure everything is still working properly.

This is a new phase we are entering here — one we knew was inevitable — but still a hard one nonetheless.

How can you not love a dog who lets you do this?


5 thoughts on “Changes

  1. My sweet Checks. I’m so glad he’s OK. I’m in the same boat with Bubba, who is 15 and I dread that inevitable day. I tell him all the time that he needs to live a very, very long and healthy life, and so far he’s listened. I can’t imagine life without my angel, so… I just won’t 🙂
    Give my dogga a big hug.

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