My good friend Ralph called this morning. “You are writing more than usual and responding more to comments, what’s wrong?” he asked. Ralph knows me too well. Gilmore the dog is sick.

Nine year-old Gilmore, whom some of you may recall from a column years ago about taking him (telepathically, no less) to the pet psychic, has canine autoimmune hemolytic anemia. His immune system is attacking Gilmore’s blood cells, which is fairly common in older dogs and occurs for no particular reason. We’re treating the condition with steroids and it is improving slowly (the survival rate is about 70 percent). But for the foreseeable future Gilmore and I are roommates, sleeping together downstairs. He is drinking like crazy (me too — that’s another story) and needs to go outside every hour or so around the clock. Someone has to give Gilmore his 18 pills per day, too, a couple of which can only be handled with rubber gloves. That rubber glove guy would be me.

So Gilmore sleeps and I type while we both wait to see if he survives. I’ve done this before: 30 years ago my charge was Gwen, a secretary in my department at Stanford who was dying of cancer and had nobody else with whom to spend the last two months of her life. I was finishing a book at home anyway so how hard could it be? Hard.

That experience affected my view of life and death. By the time Gwen was almost gone the only people who were prepared for the final event were she and I. Almost nobody came to visit, though her memorial service was packed. I prefer to spend my time with the living.

And so Gilmore and I sit here writing.

Gilmore and his brother Roscoe were literally stolen from an abusive home in California. We got Roscoe first and Gilmore a year later but they are from the same litter.  Roscoe is named for Roscoe Turner, a famous race pilot from the 1930s. I gave Mary Alyce the choice of using the name Roscoe for a dog or a son and she chose the dog. Roscoe (the pilot) was sponsored by the Gilmore Oil Company, makers of Red Lion motor oil. Turner flew with a lion cub he named Gilmore. The lion was fitted with its own parachute at the insistence of the ASPCA, or so the story goes. So when the chance came to steal from the House of Horror Roscoe’s litter mate, it only made sense to name him Gilmore.

When he came to us at age 15 months Gilmore weighed 43 pounds. Ten days ago he weighed 100. This morning he weighed 90.

We sit together on the floor a lot. I tried to show him YouTube videos of other dogs but he doesn’t care. What Gilmore really wants to do is walk down to the lake and drink dirty water, something he never did before a few days ago. He seems to prefer it. The steroids have heated him up so he prefers the outdoors, too, except his legs don’t work as well as they used to do.

Roscoe is stoic, but then he’s a Lab (Gilmore is too). They play it as it lies.  The kids don’t like any of it, but what is there to do? So we all eat dinner on the floor and talk about old times.