I can remember when he was a pup. – Robert Frost
The signs have been appearing subtly for a few years now: the flecks of gray in the muzzle, the eyes blue with age, the slow climb into the car after a visit to the beach, stiffness in the legs that once seemed so clumsy with youth, more shuffle and less spring to his step. Most recently the change in him is more dramatic: his hearing seems to have gone, whether from chronic ear infections or simple old age he no longer jumps to bark at the mailman and more often than not sleeps through pizza delivery. It’s hard to rouse him from sleep without touching him, harder still to communicate without eye contact.
Buddy is growing old and this realization seems easier on him than my husband and I. I’ve read lately that Labs often remain robust and healthy well into the winter of their lives, yet Buddy seems content to snooze away his days in front of the tv. He’s chosen his querencia, his favorite napping place where he feels most comfortable and to which he always returns with a favored toy or snack offered at the dinner table.
While he is no more demonstrative in his dotage than he was as a pup, he seems much less selective when it comes to the definition of adventure. Ball playing and chasing squirrels or a long walk at the beach remain his favorites, but he will just as happily settle for supervising an afternoon in the garden. He’s become very sly about begging treats and food from the table; mostly he knows best now how to charm us.
The predictable tragedy in our relationship with this dog, with any dog, is that there will eventually come a time for that last walk at the beach or in the woods and a final rememberance of all that has happened in the years since we first brought him home, so many years ago now that we can’t imagine how it still feels like yesterday.
In the meantime, I try to be gentle with him and humor his eccentricities. He’s learned to hate having his picture taken; in fact I had to hold his head today to keep him from turning away from the camera. We feed him a bit more and be sure he always has a soft bed to lie on. I walk slowly beside him and let him stop and sniff at everything without always dragging him forward. We let him get away with sleeping on the furniture because he thinks we don’t know that he does it.
He’s been a good friend these many years and I look forward to taking gentle care of my old man dog.