This week, we took Abe to the vet for some long-overdue dental work. We had planned to take him in the fall, but a blood test had shown that he was having kidney issues, so we started him on a special diet. The blood test this week showed his kidneys were doing better. They could safely anesthetize him.

Abe is 14 years old, and when Greg brought him home, the creature looked about 103. The anesthesia hadn’t fully worn off, and he was walking on the diagonal. I began writing his obituary in my head. Greg told me the vet had removed 12 of his teeth.

“How many teeth does a dog have?” I asked. “How is he going to eat?”

Forty-two is the answer. Most of the teeth he had pulled were in the front. His smile, if he ever gets back to smiling, will be somewhat deflated, but he can still eat. In addition to the teeth, he also had a small growth removed on his tale, and he had a patch of fur shaved from his front leg where the IV was inserted. Greg told me not to look at the bill. (I did. It was more than the monthly mortgage payment on our first house.)

We’re several days past the surgery now, and Abe is back to his normal self, which means that he sleeps most of the day, begs for dinner scraps, and barks until Greg takes him on his nightly walk. His hearing and vision have grown bad in the past few years, and I think that is a blessing because he is less bothered by our raucous children (the human ones).

(Dogs plus little boys are the best.)

However much I might want to complain about the bill, I can’t because Abe has been a loyal dog and has seen us through our whole married life. When my 23-year-old newlywed self adopted a dog, she did not consider this part of the lifespan. This is the part where we pay both the literal and figurative bills, where we have to return the loyalty. It is tough, both watching him deteriorate and feeling my own mortality when I look at him. Gee, is this making everyone want to run out and adopt a dog right this minute?

I’m making it sound as though he’s on death’s doorstep, and I do think he will be fine, at least for a while. And this is my chance to teach my own kids how to nurse me through old age, right? I hope they don’t pull out all of my teeth.