I’m worried about my Norah. Don’t worry, that’s not a euphemism. The only life-threatening condition that Norah, my collie-cross, has is that she’s the human equivalent of 98.
I’ve loved her since the day she dog-blocked her German shepherd cell mate at the rescue place, to wedge her snout through the bars and yap “hello” to us. She went from being part of an unwanted litter to part of our family and my first pet. I was nearly 30 and she was only eight weeks old, but we grew up together.
She has seen me become a teacher, a wife and a mother. She was gentle when our baby son arrived and patient as he grew and began to greet her daily with clumsy toddler delight. When he started school, she dug her claws in the driveway and refused to go for a walk. The vet diagnosed her with doggy depression (which is apparently real) and she had a spell on tablets to put the pep back in her four-legged step.
The only time she caught a squirrel, she let it go. Unmoved by her benevolence, the long-tailed thug punched her in the eye and legged it up a tree, leaving our beautiful girl with a massive shiner.
She’s never been a compliant, grateful companion, but a stubborn old misery bucket. Though her life has been filled with walks and a besotted family, her Muppet-style eyebrows suggest disappointment with her lot, even more so since Betty the ultra-happy whippet, joined us. After two years, and despite Betty’s best efforts, Norah has yet to acknowledge her.
My son is now nearly a teenager and my one-time puppy is an old dog. She’s losing her sight, is quite deaf and has doggy dementia. She wakes us with urgent woofing two or three times a night, only to forget what she needed when one of us lets her out the back. So she wanders up the garden for a 3am lie down, refusing to return until whoever’s on Norah duty gets their wellies on and goes out to get her.
We are knackered. I love Norah and hope she’s with us for many more years, but I will have to alter my lifestyle to get through the days and function at work. My husband has moved his schedule to purposefully wake up at 4.30am and says he gets more work done in those early hours.
To rationalise a time zone change, I’ve reframed my new routine of going to bed before dark as moving to “executive time”. I’m not getting up before dawn just to cater to a befuddled ancient hound, I’m being one of those glamorous high-flyers whose daytime hours are so valuable that they need to chuck a few more in. But until I’m fully on “executive time” please be gentle, or I may take inspiration from that squirrel.
Sarah Simons works in FE colleges in the East Midlands