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  • Ten years is actually a long time.

    That's how long Annie was part of my life. Ten years and a little more than two months.

    It didn't feel like ten years. Primarily because the last two years of that decade were powerfully overshadowed by the illness that just about consumed me, too.

    When Annie died, I felt like I had been shortchanged. Somehow, her loss seemed unfair. It felt like I hadn't had her for as long as I thought I would.

    I found myself beginning to make comparisons of other ten-year spans of time that would help to put everything into perspective.

    The first one that popped into my head was that ten years took a child from birth right up to Grade Five. That's actually a long time. There are one hell of a lot of milestones that a child achieves during that decade when one stops to think about it.

    Good grief … not only do they learn to walk and talk and use the bathroom, but they graduate from a crib to a bed. They learn to read and write. They play sports and learn the intricacies of the rules. They ride bicycles and skateboards and taste the freedom of independence and speed. They open countless birthday presents and learn that the best part of the gift is not just to eat the shiny paper. They make lengthy lists for Santa Claus and experience the magic of ten Christmas mornings.
    The tooth fairy visits them often as they grow their adult teeth. They learn to swim. They go on vacations with their families, building sand castles and perhaps even meet Mickey Mouse. Their palettes become more discerning as baby food gradually gives way to more mature tastes and textures. And they feed themselves, too.

    If we peer into that same child's life at a different stage, ten years is still a long time.
    The decade from their tenth birthday through to their twentieth is also filled with many measurable achievements.

    They finish elementary school and head on into high school. They graduate from high school and enter university - if that is their chosen path. They get their first job. They learn to drive and taste a whole new kind of independence and speed. They fall in love and probably have their heart broken more than once in the process, too. They begin to get a sense of what they want to do with the rest of their lives. They may leave their childhood home to face life squarely on their own terms.

    When I stop to think about a ten-year span in my own life, it's still a long time.

    Ten years from the date of my marriage in 1975 saw me established as a teacher with a son in Grade One. I had moved four times, gotten professionally credentialed, hired and assigned to a school. I had already written countless report cards, marked innumerable tests, assignments and exams and planned hundreds upon hundreds of lessons in all the required subjects. I had gotten pregnant and given birth. I had commuted thousands of miles, enduring the frustration of traffic gridlock and seasonal weather challenges. I had been driven by the clock. I raised a little boy … And all that THAT entails. I had juggled the exhausting demands of motherhood and a full-time career. I had found reliable day-care providers and dealt with an abundance of childhood illnesses that, unpredictably, threw a monkey wrench into established daily routines.

    Ten years is, in fact, a long time.

    When you share that span of time with a canine companion, though, it seems to flash by in the blink of an eye.

    Our own lives have to be tucked into the interstices between their essential walk schedule, for example. And, after the novelty of walking with a puppy has worn off, those daily strolls pretty much all blend into each other. The same times each day, the same route … the same expected outcome.

    Thousands of water bowls filled and thousands of meals prepared. Thousands of harnesses put on … and taken off … Thousands of poop bags purchased, filled, knotted and disposed of … Hundreds of little winter coats put on … And tiny feet gently washed to neutralize that stinging salt … The transition of forty seasons witnessed … which never ceased to be magical when seen through the insatiable curiosity of a dog's eyes and nose.

    I was still on the clock.

    It's not so easy to mark the passage of time with a little dog.

    It is easy to feel shortchanged when the essentials of their daily routine, by their very nature, tend to blur one's ability to discern memorable moments along the way.

    Rainy days, snowy days, windy days, icy days, they were all the same. Just a necessary “something” to be gotten through so that one could go back to fitting life into the interval before the next walk … always with one eye on the relentless march of the hours …

    I was not shortchanged.

    No.

    Ten years is, in fact, a long time.

    But what I wouldn't give for ten more …
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