He still wags his tail hard enough to knock wine glasses off the coffee table and small children off their feet. He still gets excited at the prospect of going for a walk, and rushes barking into the woods when I let him out at night.
But he's not the dog he used to be.
He has lost his stamina, that turbo-charged oomph that he seemed to never run out of. Part of it is age--Wolfie is six now, and for a German Shepherd that is no longer young. But neither is it old.
A couple of years ago, when he had so much energy that I thought he could win the Iditarod all by himself, on one of our walks in the woods or in the field a tick bit him and gave him anaplasmosis.
Despite tick meds, tick collars and scrupulous owners, most of the Vermont dogs I know have Lyme disease. But they get a course of antibiotics and, though they may continue to test positive, they get better. Antibiotics are also used against anaplasmosis, but despite repeated treatments, Wolfie has never fully recovered.
His coat is shiny, and his appetite is excellent. When his anaplamosis limp shows up, I give him an aspirin or two and he's soon back to normal. The new normal, that is, of not going after balls for more than a few throws; of trotting rather than running down the steep driveway; of walking rather than trotting on the way up. I used to take him to herding lessons, for which he had a certain talent, but we've had to give those up. And I wouldn't dream of taking up agility again with him, much though he enjoyed it when he was a puppy.
In many ways he reminds me of myself, bitten by CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome) in my prime, back when I was running my own Iditarod equivalents. I too have healthy-looking hair and an excellent appetite. But I am not who I used to be, and it's not because of the passing years.
But here is where Wolfie and I are different: he is not a depressed or a worried dog. When he's tired, he rests. When his leg hurts, he takes the aspirin I give him in a dollop of peanut butter and waits for it to get better. And when it does, he runs in the grass and chases Bisou without wondering how long this relief is going to last, or when the next relapse might hit.
He lives in and for the moment.
Of course he does--he's a dog. I am not, more's the pity, and since living in the moment is the only possible approach to surviving CFS--because you never know how you are going to feel the next day, or even the next hour--I have to work hard at doing what Wolfie does so naturally.
Right now, as I write, I'm o.k. My brain does not feel like it's wrapped in cheesecloth; my arms and legs don't have that floaty, twitchy feeling that heralds a relapse; my shoulders do not feel that familiar mantle of lead. Nothing hurts. But in the back of my mind there's a list of the things I'd like to get done today: pick blueberries, freeze chard, make pesto, clean the fish bowls, clip the dogs' nails, fold the laundry--small tasks, as you can see--and I'm already weighing and prioritizing and wondering how long my energy will hold out.
While I fret, Wolfie chills, his long body stretched at my feet. Inside his big head I doubt that there is much more than a pleasant anticipation of dinner, and the hope of a walk. Otherwise, he is all here, on the floor, in his body, relishing the miracle of a cool dry day.
Me too, Wolfie, me too.