Why My Dog Going Gray Is Killing Me

I love my dog, but I will not dress him up. I will not buy him an elevated water bowl or a doggie sofa.

The fact that I live in Marin County, Calif., land of certified dog massage therapy, cashmere canine wardrobes and fake service-dog vests, only strengthens my resolve to stay normal.

When Sheridan from Dairy Dell Doggie Care hands me the two-page menu of extras to consider for Scotch's weeklong stay, (i.e., "furry blowout," "extra bedtime cuddling by staff," and "treadmill time"), I put up my hand and say nicely, "Thank you, Sheridan. But he's a dog."

And yet. And yet: ever since white hair started sprouting up on my Brittany spaniel's perfect, mahogany-brown face, I began to sink into an embarrassing, only-half-ironic existentialist funk.

"What if I ship him off to Nicole?" I threatened my husband and kids. Nicole is my hair colorist, to whom I hand over a small fortune every six weeks so my hair can try to look like Julianne Moore's.

My family laughed at first, but has since asked me to stop saying this because they're starting to worry.

But here's my deal: We get dogs to bring us one thing: JOY. Right? Uncomplicated joy. Your dog's job is to come when you call, love you all the time, and live to be, in all adorable doggy ways, a constant reminder that your life is right there, waiting to be enjoyed.

Never mind that our dog regularly fails at most of his job. Most of the time, he treats us like a bad boyfriend, stopping for a moment to consider our jubilant calls and effusive praise with a blank stare before walking off in the other direction.

But still, we adore him, just like all bad boyfriends are unjustifiably adored. And despite his poor dog performance, Scotch's rapidly changing appearance from gorgeous young thing to wizened elder is managing to unhinge me.

What, in God's name, is wrong with me? Am I vain? Am I ageist? Am I a cliché of Man's Denial of Death? Also, what is the life expectancy of the cat?

I really don't know. But what I do know is that I do not appreciate my Brittany turning into a daily reminder of the grim, inexorable march of time.

I also do not appreciate my daughter constantly telling me that we better get another dog soon, because Scotch's life expectancy comes up right about the time she leaves for college.

Do I need another living being I take care of to break my heart? No. I do not. Instead, I need my dog to stay beautiful and vital and mahogany-brown, and also to stop rolling around in rotting carcasses when I go trail running with him in the hills.

Sadly, it's becoming ever more clear that he is not interested in any part of my plan. And so I am left with "my work," as I am certain Oprah would call it. "Julie," Oprah would say, holding me by my shoulders. "Your work is to accept what is, with equanimity. There you'll find your best life."

Yes, Oprah, yes. My work, I understand, is to breathe into watching Scotch's face turn arctic white. To be OK as I watch his hip flexors seize up just a little more every month, right along with mine. My work is to practice -- it takes practice! -- being with the fact, that one day, my daughter will leave home. Scotch will stop running. And so will I.

And that's life.

Unless I call Nicole. I'll keep you posted.

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