Mind Over Miller: A tribute to an old dog
My neighbor's old dog is an inspiration.
Pit Stop lives up on the hill behind my place, and he is such a special dog that I feel compelled to devote a column to him. I've dedicated this page to dogs before, but they were always my dogs. Pit Stop may not be my dog, but he owns a piece of my heart.
Pit Stop is a nondescript mongrel owned by Norman and Dorothy Wright. He's 14 years old and a diabetic. The Wrights dutifully inject him with insulin twice a day, but nothing stops his perpetually wagging tail. He's not effusively friendly. He just always looks happy, and his tail never stops.
As a result of his diabetes, Pit Stop is blind. When Norman drives him in his utility vehicle to see me, the old dog sniffs the air until he recognizes me. Blind and hard of hearing, the old nose still works fine and as soon as I put my hand to it, the vigorous tail wagging begins. "Doc! My neighbor! My friend! I haven't seen you since yesterday!"
As his neighbor, I guess the best way to describe Pit Stop is to say he is good-natured. My own dogs always welcome his visits.
He begins every day by waking up Dorothy and pleading for breakfast, the first of two huge meals a day. Then he accepts his first injection with aplomb. Norman lifts Pit Stop into the Kawasaki, and the dog settles onto the seat cushion, his official throne for the day while his master does chores.
A true companion. Pit Stop poses with his owner, my neighbor Norman Wright (top left), and relaxes on his "throne" in Norman's utility vehicle (immediately above right).
I've reached a point in life where I make it difficult for airport security personnel: titanium hip, titanium knee, titanium ankle. They're souvenirs of a life spent skiing and working with horses. Once I was a gymnast and I pole-vaulted. I'm still riding horses when I'm not going to the cabinet for NSAIDs. So, when I see this old, blind dog and his love of life and the joy he finds in friendships, it heartens me.
With age and illness, his hair has grayed, especially around his face and that once plump face is now emaciated and thin. But he personifies the qualities I admire most in dogs: loyalty and love for his family.
I know that Pit Stop won't be around too much longer. He has really aged, but he just keeps hangin' on. So we had to get some photos to always remember him by.
Pit Stop is an inspiration. He is all that a dog can be, a true companion.
Robert M. Miller, DVM, is an author and a cartoonist, speaker, and Veterinary Medicine Practitioner Advisory Board member from Thousand Oaks, Calif. His thoughts in "Mind Over Miller" are drawn from 32 years as a mixed-animal practitioner. Visit his Web site at robertmmiller.com.