Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Dog's Age

If you want a family pet that will provide loyalty and love and that will endear itself as a lasting member of your family, I don't think you can do much better than a dog. They love to see you arrive home even when your children get over it. They can provide comfort and understanding from their soulful eyes. It's even just nice to have another living thing in the house sometimes when the rest of your family is away. Personally, I'm not sure I'd be able to fall asleep by myself anymore without being able to hear my basset hound snoring at the foot of the bed or in a nearby room.

But there is something else that comes along with dog ownership. There is another thing obtained that few people tell you about. Something deep and profound and sobering. It is a constant reminder of the effects of the aging process and, ultimately, your own mortality.

Everyone knows the term "dog years." It's meant to be a rough calculation of your dog's age in human terms. Generally, one human year is the equivalent of seven years for a dog. What nobody talks about is how this allows you to watch the aging process that your own body inevitably undergoes progress quickly in a test subject. It's like watching your life at fast forward times seven.

My dog is currently in his mid-seventies in dog years. He smells worse at a faster rate between baths. He has trouble getting up the stairs, which makes those soulful eyes more depressing than cute. He often doesn't even hear me giving him a command or even walking up behind him, then starts when he feels me nudge or pet him as if I appeared out of nowhere. He has blatantly disregarded the long standing no begging policy in our home, probably figuring he has nothing to lose anymore. It seems like he wants to go out into the yard to do his business at least twenty times a day. Then, his digestive system is obviously struggling because his "product" is far more difficult to clean up after than it used to be. It's become like trying to pick up an egg yolk.

Think that too descriptive if you will, but these are the developments in my dog's life that cause me to cringe in horror at the correlation they may have to my own. My knees are already starting to argue with me over climbing too many stairs (three stairs are too many). I sometimes don't hear a person in the same room asking me a question. My eyes are becoming droopier too. I fear it's only a matter of time before I start smelling funny and having similar bowel problems. The plus side is that nobody needs to clean up after me.

However, while I am an expert at taking the problems and life changes I notice in another and translating them into what they mean for me, I must admit that the worst part about the noticeable progression of our dog into the ranks of the canine elderly is that I still remember him as a puppy. It's a reminder that even though he's been with my wife and I since before we were married, owned a house or had children, he won't be around forever. The worst part about him seeming so old is that I know I will miss him eventually.

When that day comes, no matter how much I think about the lack of poop in the backyard, I know I'll wish he were still around.

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