Guest Post by Shane Nickerson: Old and Stinky

Shane Nickerson is a father of three and a TV producer. He occasionally writes at Nickerblog.

At night, my dog slinks into the living room and jumps up on the couch with me. He’s a whippet mix that we adopted from a rescue fair in 2005. Max. He came with the name.

He’s a gentle dog, eternally happy that we saved him from a lonely life lived, abandoned and sleeping underneath parked cars in South Central Los Angeles. He showed no signs of abuse, but he was found with no tags and covered in dirt and oil stains. When we met him, we immediately liked him. My two year old ran up to him before we could stop her, and he licked her face gently. In the hectic hot sun of a park filled with excited dogs waiting for new humans to please take them home, he was panting and scattered; flitting back and forth on his leash, desperately trying to make sense of the unusual crowded mixture of people and animals around him. We struggled for a moment, still grieving the loss of our previous whippet mix, but his gentle spirit and perpetual smile won us over. After some discussion, we took home our new friend.

It’s become more difficult for him lately. He has arthritis in his right hind leg, and the boundless energy we used to curse has become a casualty of his age. He still gets after the squirrels every morning, but in the same way an old man tries to keep up with the grandkids. The desire is still there, but the pep is waning.

He liked me best, almost right away. We lived in a two bedroom rented beach cottage in the South Bay, and he’d lay with his head on my lap every night as I fell asleep watching TV in our tiny living room. The back yard was an exceptionally large one for Manhattan Beach, and there was nothing he loved more than chasing the tennis ball on a rope that I’d throw endlessly across the yard. When I ran out of energy, he’d stay outside and race around in the overgrown thicketed lot until panting exhaustion. A single abrasive bark was my cue to come let him back inside. It’s one of those barks that’s impossible to ignore. Grating. Unpleasant. It’s incredibly effective at getting me off of the couch.

These days, he goes outside to sniff the air and do a quick patrol around our much smaller yard in the Valley, but within a few minutes, he’s at the back door firing off that same annoying bark. Old man Max.

My kids want a puppy.

(All kids want a puppy.)

They put together a presentation for us on why we should get a brand new puppy. It was cute, but I had to pass on their proposal.

“Max is our dog,” I told them, “and if he could talk, he’d tell you he’s not interested in a new puppy roommate.”

“But puppies are so cute,” they persisted, “and Max is old and stinky!”

A fair point.

“We can talk about a puppy after Max dies,” I mistakenly told them.

“So we can get a puppy after he’s dead?” they asked eagerly.

Oh no.

“We can TALK about it,” I said.

“Yay! As soon as Max dies, we can get a puppy! As soon as Max dies, we can get a puppy!” they sang.

I’ve inadvertently made my children excited for the death of our family dog. Great work, me. Pretty glad Max can’t speak English.

He’s old and stinky, it’s true. But he’s the most loyal, gentle, patient dog I’ve ever lived with. He’s endured three children in all stages of their mayhem. He’s been colored on, had his hair pulled and eyes poked, had his tail yanked and ears gouged, and he’s never so much as nipped at them. He still sleeps with me on the couch for as long as he can endure the discomfort of his arthritic leg. When I come home from work, he’s still as excited as the first day we brought him home.

So yes, maybe someday we’ll get another dog.

But for now, this old stinky one is the only one we need.

14 thoughts on “Guest Post by Shane Nickerson: Old and Stinky”

  1. I wish we had our old and stinky dog back. It’s been five years and I mourn him still. Your kids will miss Max. They just don’t know it yet. Enjoy Max’s last few years because he loves you unconditionally and nothing beats that. And now I’ve made myself cry. A truly touching story. Thank you for sharing.

    1. It seems like the ultimate betrayal to get rid of a dog when he is in most need of care. Kids don’t understand that yet. Dogs bring so much joy into our lives that we owe it to them to keep them happy and comfortable in their old age. They deserve everything we can give them.

  2. We feel the same way about our 15 yr old, extremely cranky not even remotely people friendly cat, Rumpleteazer. My husband and I have had her (or she’s had us, we’re not sure which) since the early days of our marriage and as much as I’d love a dog right now (because we have a 10 yr old son and every boy should have a dog at some point during his growing up years I think), we’re not going to get one because we know that it just would not turn out well. Rump is very protective of me and I’m sure she’d shred the dog in a matter of minutes.

  3. Lovely story. As a fellow dog lover and dog owner, I dread the day that comes when my hounds die. And even though I know the pain of missing them goes away with time I still dread it, my first puppy Abby is the sweetest, goofiest dog I’ve ever known.

  4. Brought back happy tears for my long gone felines…
    You have given your kids a great gift – the love of animals. Heartless to want a newer model? Yes but how great that they are excited about the prospect. And how painful for you to be reminded yet again, Max’s time is not limtiless. Just his love is. Thank you.

  5. A change of diet might help Max be less stinky. Raw or even home-cooked foods will make him smell better. It only takes a little research and extra effort compared to scooping that crud out of the bag or tin. As a raw/home cooked feeder I can smell commercial food on a dog, both his coat and his breath/teeth. Yech. I’d be really cut up if my kids said anything like that about a precious oldster. Like you I’m glad he didn’t understand them. Loyalty to those who become ill or frail is a good life lesson and one of the ones pets can teach us. I hope your kids will be kinder to you when you are old and smelly. :)

  6. I would do anything to have my old stinky dog with me. anything. or even my old stinky chicken. anything.

  7. Thank you for this Shane. There have been a parade of dogs through our lives, all rescues who shared their unconditional love – first with my young daughters, then as they became rebellious teens and finally solely with me and my husband when the girls moved on.

    A few years back I had to take one of our dogs to the vet on my own because Hubs was out of town. Old Man (we never knew his real name as he just adopted us one summer) couldn’t get up one morning and he was large enough I couldn’t help him. My best friend’s partner came over to help him into the SUV and went with me to help carry him inside. When it came time to make the decision though, that was all on me. I was sitting on the floor beside him, stroking his head when the vet tech did the deed, and they let me stay with him until I could stop weeping enough to drive home. I still miss him and I’m so very glad we take photos of our furry family so we can keep a part of them with us.

  8. My dog is fifteen. She doesn’t smell the best. But I wouldn’t trade her for the world. Hugs to you and yours and Max.

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