Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Puppy Inside

Today, I'm pretty sure I saw my dog longing for his lost youth. It's happened before, in encounters with younger, more vibrant dogs who want to jump, wrestle and play. These dogs always intrigue Bailey, but he's almost fifteen, so they also give him pause. It's as if he's thinking, "Man, I'd love to but I know I'd throw my back out."

Today, a neighbor dog who lives up the street came running through a nearby yard just as we finished our morning walk. Nash is about two or three years old, a mutt with insatiable energy who's always up for a game, a run or a belly rub.

I heard Nash before I spotted him. He came down through the trees, and I thought at first that perhaps he was a deer. Bailey's hearing has significantly diminished in the last year or two, but when we were half way up our driveway, he saw Nash and turned. To say he was riveted would be a gross understatement. Nash ran like a racehorse, down the street and back. He bounded into the woods and out again, approached Bailey with a 'hello' sniff, then crouched as if ready to wrestle. He wasn't even breathing heavily.

For a moment, Bailey went through the motions. He crouched as best as he could with his arthritic hips. His tail went up as if ready to have a go-round with Nash. He never took his eyes off the dog.

But when no play actually ensued, Nash grew bored and ran off down the street again, a flash of black and tan who'd be gone if you blinked. He stopped momentarily to smell the wet leaves, then heard his owner calling from up the block and took off back through the trees and up the hill.

When Bailey and I reached our deck and I told him to go around back as he always does, he stood and looked at me. I motioned for him to go on, thinking perhaps he hadn't heard me. But then he turned and looked across the street for a long moment, to the spot where Nash had just been running to and fro.  He let out a heavy breath, then loped up the deck toward the door and the bed that awaited him inside.

I'm starting to think Bailey is like the rest of us. As we feel the effects of aging come on bit by bit, we learn to adjust and live with them. We buy reading glasses, ask people to repeat themselves, turn up the volume on the television. This all works fine until we find ourselves somewhere with a younger bunch: those who can eat richer food, dance more freely, drink more wine. Then we sigh and hold hands, glad we're not alone, but a little sad for what we no longer have.

So I'm giving Bailey some extra love today. A bit of gravy in his bowl, lots of scratches and coos and calling him my puppy, the one I love most, my best boy. I don't even know if he can hear me. But in this warm, familiar setting he's known for years, I'll try to ease his heart. I can't give him back what he's lost. But I hope our love is enough to make up for it.

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