Which is why, after making the appointment the other day with the financial adviser who tries to keep the rats away from our nest egg, I got out of my chair and started grumping over how we’re going to afford nursing home care if comes to that.
I immediately went to step one in my problem-solving strategy (denial) and scooted out the back door.
As luck would have it, our friendly neighbor, Evan, had just come out his back door. So, I slithered through the space between our fence post and his garage and said hey.
Evan’s sunny smile – 40 years younger than my own – gave me an immediate lift. Brighter yet was the gleam on the coat of one of his and his equally sunny wife Leah’s four dogs.
He told me the animals were fresh off their weekly coconut oil rubs, which they were given as soon as Evan and Leah returned with them from Virginia Beach, where they’d vacationed in a rental house near the beach.
And that got this old dog wondering about the legal steps necessary for me to self-identify as a canine so my care might be provided by people who would take me to Virginia Beach on vacation and provide coconut oil treatments weekly.
The trifecta, of course, would be that I could continue to live the neighborhood whose fire hydrants and curb lawns I know so well.
A couple of days later, I wheedled my way into Evan and Leah’s front door for a first peek into what may be my golden years.
The first thing that hit me was the smell.
It doesn’t smell like a doghouse, which I learned was due to regular shampoos of the dogs and carpets. (I should mention that Evan and Leah seem generally well-groomed, too.)
Nor does the place smell like a cat house of any variety. The reason? They provide automatic air purified litter boxes for Hades and Luna, their two cats.
Before you ask: Hades is not the cat from hell, nor do the cats and dogs don’t fight like, well, you get it.
A final note on odor: Their place doesn’t smell like a smoker’s house, either, because Evan and Leah do that on the front porch. Since Evan is the HR compliance guy at their workplace, the home smoking policy got me worrying that he might take his administrative style home in a way that would create a hostile shirking environment for me.
I soon knew I’d have wiggle room when Evan didn’t bat an eye after Leah laughed while saying the obviously breedist dog whistle that “chihuahuas are useless.”
Because I’m uncomfortable with the places dogs sometimes put their noses during introductions , I quickly took a seat on the couch and got ready to meet the others with whom I’d share my congregate living space.
Lars had both licked my right ankle clean and tried to type notes into my laptop before he was ushered upstairs. He went without a whimper, seeming to understand it was best for all involved.
Lars, they told me, was just being Lars.
That empathetic attitude led me to ask whether the front room bay window that faces the street had played into their decision to buy the house.
“Absolutely,” Leah told me.
“They’ve always sat on the top of the couch” to look out at the world beyond, Evan added. “This is easier.”
Abigail, a 6-or-7-year-old mix of a Schnauzer and Australian herding dog, was in the window behind me when we were introduced, doing what Leah said Abigail always does when she gets excited: “She squeaks like a goat.”
When I said the sound seemed more like a squeeze toy, I was told she has a squeeze toy, too. While it solved a mystery of sorts, I still struggled to figure out when Abigail was impersonating a goat or operating a squeeze toy behind my back. And I wondered how that might strike me in an older, even more confused state.
That passed into the background when got a glimpse at Maggie, who is as cute as one could hope a 1-year-old beagle could be.
That left 9-year-old Jordy.
His brother, Milo, passed away a couple of years ago, and Jordy’s living out his last years with a sight problem. When I learned that, I felt slightly bad because I had already multiplied his age by 7, using the dog-to-human conversion table, and felt a rush of pride that I’d be the dog with the most seniority if I did what my wife was hoping for and moved next door immediately.
(Next year Jordy and I will be the same age by that multiplication factor, something I mention as an occupational therapy exercise for retired math teachers, who now can go figure out a story problem out of that set of facts solving for my age. It’s like tossing them a bone.)
My visit also turned up a romantic fact: That Evan and Leah -- my future nursing home administrator and director of nursing – got acquainted through a dog with a romantic name:
“I grew up with a French bulldog name Valentino,” Evan said. When he said they grew up as brothers, I almost asked if they were brothers from another mother.
“I feel like we got him when I was a freshman in high school,” he said, having earlier in life had the companionship of Beaker, “a big, shaggy scary black dog” -- and Buzz, named not for a proposed amendment to the Ohio Constitution but for the dude associated with another “Infinity and Beyond.”
“I was like his playmate,” Evan said.
“Even before we started dating, Valentino was at my house,” Leah added.
When Evan’s parents headed out, she looked after Valentino and confirmed Evan’s view that that the dog was “feisty and opinionated,” but in a good way.
“He really knew how to communicate well and say what he wanted.”
Leah said the residents as a whole do the same thing, using “intense body language and tone. Everything’s body language, everybody’s faces -- how they’re walking around, how they’re walking back and forth.”
“They’ll tell us when it’s dinner time,” Evan said.
All this sounded good, but I wanted to check my future owners for signs of canine social worker burnout.
I found a touch of it in Leah.
“Every day I yell into the house, everybody please stop following me. I’ll walk through the house and I turn around, and I can’t walk back to the bedroom.”
On the other hand, she volunteers every day to be “it” in hide- and-seek, and her dogs take off looking for her when Evan says “Where’s Mommy?”
I just assume they swarm to Evan when either person asks “Who’s your daddy?”
There were other positives:
The owners change the food that’s served when the dogs get bored with it.
Their in-office and remote working schedules allow them to provide 24-hour staff coverage.
They seemed encouraged to know that my resources may allow me to pay for my own animal insurance premiums, thus limit the number of times they’ll be $2,000 into a vet treatment with no end in sight.
We have just three issues to resolve.
One is the wording of the HR policy involving my belly rubs.
A second is the signing of the form that allows the surgeon to insert a microchip in my neck.
The third involves whether an exception might be made in my case to the facility’s policy that all pets they care for be neutered or spayed.
Leah said animals neither spayed nor neutered tend to leave unwanted deposits in the corners, and her eyes seemed to bore into me when she asked: Could you really promise that you wouldn’t do that?
I managed to suppress the urge to ask if I could use the center of the room instead and told her I’d have to get back to her.
In the meantime, I have permission to visit as a human therapy animal – well, as soon as I’m certified.