For as long as I can remember, and that’s longer than you think, I’ve felt good. Really good. No matter what I did or how long or hard I did it I felt fine. Maybe a little tired, but nothing a nap wouldn’t fix. OK, there was the time I misjudged the height of a stump and cut my chest on this piece of metal that was sticking out of it. The folks weren’t home, (yes, there had been suitcases involved), but my buddy Tom was staying with me and took me to the vet.

She, the vet, someone who’d been pretty nice to me before, gave me some kind of drug that knocked me out. When I woke up I was all wrapped up in bandages and had this plastic thing around my head. I looked ridiculous. I felt sick and dizzy. I mean, I was fine before I got there. The cut didn’t hurt. What was the big deal? Tom said I’d needed stitches, whatever those are. Personally, I think a nap would have done the trick.

When mom and the doc got home they were all over me. The attention was kinda nice but were the bandages really necessary? Obviously they thought so because they changed them every day and if I managed to get them off somehow they put them right back on. At least they didn’t make me wear that stupid plastic hat. This went on for a while until one day we went back to the vet and she took the stitches out. I was back in business, feeling great.

Until I broke my toe. It happened at the park. I was chasing something, probably a squirrel but maybe another dog, when I felt this pain in my back paw. I knew something wasn’t right so I stopped running and went over and sat next to the doc. He was talking to a few of his pals but he stopped as soon as he saw me. I didn’t say anything. I didn’t want to make a scene.

Right away he was suspicious and asked if I was OK. When I didn’t answer he said, “Hmm…” and started examining me. Right there, in front of everybody. When he got to the toe he stopped for a few seconds. It was a little crooked. I already knew it was probably broken, and I’m pretty sure he did, too, but for some reason he had to squeeze it anyway. I guess it’s some kind of doctor thing. I yelped. Couldn’t help it. Back to the vet we went.

This time is was something she called a ‘splint’. She’d taken an x-ray, then come into the little room where we were waiting. “The toe is broken”. It was official. No need for any more squeezing. She put this plaster ‘splint’ on my lower leg and paw and wrapped it up with bandages and tape. It was a little awkward but I could walk on it and it did feel a little better. No hat this time, but she gave us a plastic bag to put over the splint it to keep it dry. Fine. Can I go home now?
Eventually the splint came off and once again I was back to my feeling-great self. I managed to stay healthy and avoid the vet, except for the usual shots and the disgusting worms thing that time, really gross, until recently. No, not another injury or miscalculation. No bandages or funny hats. It’s just that sometimes things don’t feel right.

First time I noticed this was in the car. Love the car. It’s what they call an SUV. The seats go down in the back so I can have it all to myself. My own blanket, a pillow, very cozy. It’s got this back door that opens upward so I can jump in, windows on either side so I can stick my head out if I want, bark at the other dogs in their cars and at the smelly guys on the corner who try to talk to us when we’re stuck at a red light. No way. Not going to happen. They remind me of the weirdos who had me tied to a tree in some park when I was real little. They come near the car with these signs, start waving and smiling, and I go nuts. That usually does it.

One time one of these guys tried to show he wasn’t scared and came close enough for me to grab him. “Make my day”, I said to myself. The doc must have figured out what I was going to do because he closed the window just in time. I think the weirdo realized I wasn’t kidding and walked away. I’ve seen him since but he’s kept his distance. Good.

But back to the car and not feeling right. One day I was lying on my rug, front paws on my pillow, enjoying the ride and the view like always. We’d been driving around for maybe 20 minutes when we pulled over and parked. Normally this means I’m getting a walk, very exciting, and I’m up and ready to go before they get the door open. This time, though, I tried to stand and couldn’t. My legs didn’t want to work for some reason. They were stiff and a little sore. I tried again. This time I managed to stand but there was a sharp pain in my right front leg, near the top. It only lasted a second or so but it surprised me and caused me to limp. Just for a second. But my folks noticed.

“Poor Kaya,” dad said with this sad look on his face, “she’s getting old, she has arthritis.”

‘Old’ I understand, sort of. I have dog friends that I think are old. They have gray fur on their faces, they move slowly, they only chase squirrels once in a while and not for very long, they sleep a lot. OK, I sleep a lot. Always have. That doesn’t mean I’m old. Like I said, I get tired from all the running around I do. I need my naps.

‘Arthritis’ I don’t understand at all, at least not when dad first said the word. Now, though, I think I have a better idea what he means. I think it’s the doctor name for the way my legs feel sometimes when I try to get up after not moving for a while. The stiffness and those sharp pains that come and go, more often now. Sometimes I don’t even want to get out of the car. I’ll be lying there, perfectly comfy on my blanket, and mom or dad will start shaking the leash in my face and asking if I want to go for a walk. Not so exciting as it used to be. Why don’t you go on without me this time and I’ll just hang out here for a while longer? So far that hasn’t happened. I get up, give myself a shake, and off we go. After a minute or so I feel fine, great, like always.

But each time the folks see me struggle, just a little, they get those sad faces. They start talking about ‘getting a ramp’, whatever that is, to help me get into and out of the car. Really. Getting in and out has never been a problem. I jump in like always and jump out, just like always, once I manage to stand up, of course. They talk about ‘poor Kaya’ getting old. I think they should worry a little more about themselves getting old and leave poor Kaya out of it. Let’s face it, I’ve got a nose for old people, and the folks are starting to get a little fragrant, if you know what I mean.

I might be getting older, but I’m not old. Just a little stiff and sore once and a while. Just like they are. Let’s see whose going to need that ramp first, ‘poor Kaya’ or them.


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