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Shadow’s present affliction is a mild blow, but a blow nonetheless — and one that resonates. She’s improved, which is good. But she’s old, which is what it is.

Shadow came into my life as a handful of pup when I found her abandoned at Lake Balboa in the Sepulveda basin on Labor Day, 1994. I was not even two months past my motorcycle accident that by all accounts should have left me dead or paralyzed. Instead it left me with a broken, scarred face and an internal duel between being thankful to be alive and bitterly angry to be so forever changed.

Shadow couldn’t have come along at a better and worse time in my life. When I brought her home that day and watched her tumble about the converted Van Nuys garage, if there was any joy at the new member of the family it was brought to heel by the selfish funk I was in. I didn’t want or need this responsibility. All I wanted was to feel sorry for my disfigured self and pop enough generic Vicodin so that when I did sleep I could keep the apocalyptic nightmares at bay along with the terrifying sick-grinning goblin that had taken up a sentry-like residence in the corner between the closet and the bed.

These were disturbing, dark day, generally not condusive to puppy love.

“You’re just going to die one day,” I said to her all of six to eight weeks of age and attempting to eat her first tennis ball. “And I don’t need to deal with that.”

But of course I did and in doing so she gave me a responsibility that took some of the focus off my own self-pity and unconditional love in return and through the thick and thin of the last 13 years we’ve managed by and large to stick together. In fact, the only time there was a sliver of concern that we might have to go our separate ways was in 2004 when mom sold her house and was soon relocating to Tennessee. I was a few months into seeing Susan and living in my “No Dogs Allowed” East Hollywood apartment.

“Guess we’ll have to find a home for Shadow,” my mom said. And when I relayed that in some distress to Susan she sealed my love for her even stronger by quietly suggesting that perhaps it was time to get her backyard fenced in. Shadow’s actually lived at the house and with Susan longer than I have.

I’m actually not very worried about Shadow. In a conversation Susan had with the vet, he said he  found through a blood test that her cholesterol and protein levels are high and there’s a thyroid problem and he wants to put her on a special diet along with pills.  When she asked about Canine Peripheral Vestibular Syndrome he discounted it, and neither of us are sure why. Perhaps because there’s no surgery or treatment or medicine charges to foist upon our credit card.

As I wrote at the top Shadow’s getting better. Her heads still prominently tilted, but she’s walking with a bit more control and is eating more. She’s a tough and scrappy gal with a lot of vitality in her and I expect this was a minor health blow. But like I said, it’s a blow that resonates as a reminder that there will come a day when she won’t be here anymore.

It’s a day I’ve dreaded since our first together but the difference now is that whenever it does come I can deal with it.