It seems like only yesterday that we got her from the Humane Society, a crazed, big-eared four-month-old, fond of digging holes and scared of anything on wheels.
In those days we lived near a mall (imagine!), and I would take her there and walk her up to the big idling trucks and make her sit and stay, and walk her up to people of all ages and colors and let her meet them. Except that she house-trained herself quickly and perfectly, she was like a wild animal, forever pulling on the leash, whining, driving me nuts. A couple of times, on our expeditions to the mall she wrapped the leash around my legs and knocked me down to the ground. In obedience class, she whined non-stop for the six weeks that the course lasted.
But I signed her up again, and again. We went to obedience classes for almost two years. It helped, but it didn't take away her intensity. She became a good dog...just too much of one. When she turned six, she began to settle down a little.
And now, suddenly, she's old. She's withdrawing: she doesn't get up to greet us when we come home, leaving that task to the younger dogs. She doesn't come upstairs to sleep in our bedroom at night. She's slowly fading into the background of our lives.
At mealtimes, however, she's right there, jumping with eagerness. And when we go out into the field, she runs to look for deer poop (that's what country dogs do, fervently, all the time. I think it must have survival value). And then she takes off. If I call her, she pretends not to hear. (She might be going deaf, but if so, how come she can hear the slightest touch of my hand on the food bowls?) She takes off in the direction of the neighbor's compost pile and is gone for an hour. Then she comes back, looking three years younger, tail high and proud of herself.
I know that this going AWOL is dangerous for her. She could go out on the highway and get run over, she could get lost, she could be attacked by coyotes, she could slip and fall and make her arthritic knees and elbows and hips even worse than they already are. To avoid these dangers, I could confine her to our roomy back yard. I could walk her on a leash. But she wouldn't think it was the same.
I find myself in a similar situation to that of people with an elderly relative who insists on staying in the house where she has lived for years. She could fall at any minute and not be able to get help. She could have a stroke in her sleep. She could do any number of things that would shorten her life. She would be much safer in an assisted living facility, where she would be watched day and night. But it wouldn't be the same.
At the end of her life, there is still in Lexi that wild independence she had as a pup. I realize that it may cut her days short, but every once in a while I err on the side of risk.