Sunday 04 Dec 2016

Showing Her Age
AJ Robinson

It’s an established fact that dogs do not live as long as humans do. With some of the larger breeds, about all you can hope for is ten to twelve years. Smaller dogs can live to almost twenty. The canine longevity record is for a terrier, which lived to twenty-nine years.

Still, once a dog reaches “middle age” they tend to start slowing down. Juliet has reached that stage in her life. In terms of her physical appearance, she’s starting to show a bit of gray around her muzzle, with a little under her chin and a touch of it on her back legs.

Juliet is not as high energy and zippy during her walks, anymore, although she is far from slowing down, completely, let me tell you! When Rex, my former dog, got old, I knew it; he no longer ran, he ambled.

Juliet can still run. Yet, she is starting to show her age. It’s most evident when I see how she does visually with things in her environment. On the one hand, she is still so good at spotting a squirrel far away, even if the little monster isn’t moving, which they often aren’t.

No, once they know that Juliet has them in her sights, they usually freeze, until she gets close. When they know she’s about to pounce, they take off. This is when she gives off a clue about her age. She’ll race after those annoying squirrels and cats; chase them as they dodge and careen behind cars and shrubs, and eventually lose sight of them.

She always loses sight of them. It doesn’t matter if it’s a squirrel or a cat, or multiples of them; they are always able to ditch her. This is where the fun begins, for me. In a typical case scene, the squirrel or cat will climb atop something. I saw one cat sit on an air conditioner once, while Juliet raced around looking for her. The cat looked at me as if to say, “Really, she’s really that dumb that she doesn’t see me up here?”

I felt like saying, “Yeah, she’s not the sharpest tool in the shed.” The best of the best, the truest evidence as to the growing diminishment of her faculties is her contact with the squirrels. As I said, she can see them at a distance, but it’s when she gets in close that her poor vision becomes evident.

The squirrels now seem to know this. Once one of them gets up a tree, they stop about two to three feet up the trunk and just freeze. Juliet will race back and forth looking for them, and never once see them. I’ve seen her literally be inches from the squirrel and not see it. That’s when I knew her eyesight was starting to dim, which is perfectly normal for a dog. After all, their sight is already poor. In the past, with the other dogs I’ve owned, there have always been those first signs of aging: the gray around the mouth, face and the eyes losing a bit of their focus. Now, each day, I see her diminish just a bit, and I know that the days before us are less than the ones behind.

Such is the truth of owning a beloved pet. They are part of our lives for only a little while, but we are their whole world. With that in mind, I have learned over the years to strive to make my pet’s time with me as positive as possible. May her years with me be happy; may she never endure anger or harsh words, of any kind. Perhaps that’s the greatest lesson pets can teach us, to carry that attitude onward in our dealings with other people.

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.

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