Saturday, July 30, 2011

Old Dog, New Tricks

Plenty of posts on this blog have dealt with my relationship with my dog.  Most recently, I have managed to internalize the struggle that he is having with old age.  I have made it my problem and a way to frame my concerns over my own mortality.

However, the events of this summer have shed new light on my worries over my dog’s gradual decent from active, curious puppy to area rug.  Instead of spending time missing the rambunctious, squirrel chasing scamp that barked at every passing pedestrian from the gangway next to our home and used to bound through foot high snow drifts with what I would have sworn was a smile on his face, I have learned to see the silver lining on the grey clouds developing in his eyes, which are probably a sign he is developing cataracts.

Several times over the last two months, my wife has let my dog out the front door on purpose while we have allowed our sons and their friends to run around well into the late twilight hours.  Normally, this would have resulted in my chasing him through the neighborhood for an hour until he ran out of steam and laid down for a belly rub or found a group of playing children that he was convinced he was one of.

To my surprise, my now elderly dog slowly descended the front porch steps and wandered slowly about the front lawn, returning just as casually as he had wandered away anytime his name was called.  It would seem that the extra effort that he causes me to expend by needing to be let out to go to the bathroom more often and the increased difficulty that the consistency of his leavings now present in cleaning up have been made up for.  Now we can let him out of the front door without fear that he will turn momentarily into a blur of white, brown and black and enjoy a summer evening as a family. 
This unexpected side effect of his advanced age has caused me to notice other positive aspects emerging in my mature dog as well.

He has become a better communicator in that he growls lowly to remind us it is time to feed him.  There is far less need to explain to our sons’ new friends that he will not bite but is just excited to meet them since he barely raises an eyebrow when they enter the house.  The presents that he leaves in the yard are grouped together better than they used to be because he has apparently become too tired to venture any further into the grass than necessary to find an appropriate spot to conduct his transactions.  I even find that his snoring has changed into a wheezier sounding rasp that fondly reminds me of the dying Darth Vader’s breathing sound immediately before asking Luke to remove his mask.

I know now that my dog’s senior years are not ones to be sorrowful over.  On the contrary, they are to be celebrated.  In fact, since he has just come over to sniff at me and see what I am doing as I write this, maybe I’ll take him for a little stroll without his leash on.

Oh, never mind.  He fell back asleep.

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