He’s a good old dog.
The kids found him, when they were small. Next day they went out with a rope and brought him home. He was a puppy, with a chow’s nose. He was much cuter than the full-grown dog we’d gotten them for Christmas the previous month. "Can we keep him?" they said.
Browny turned out to be more shepherd than chow. When he could escape from our fenced yard, he would wander around looking for things to herd. If the older dog, whom the kids named Blacky, also got out, he would go around-and-around her down the street, even though she had no more idea where she was heading than he did.
He was a high-energy dog, with high spirits. He would sit up in the house with his back feet splayed out, one on either side of him. We trained him as a "canine good citizen" but he never lost his appetite for jumping the fence, for wandering the neighborhood, or for barking at the other dogs.
But this is not a dog story. This is a story about aging.
These days Browny spends most of his days on his side. A dog park opened near here last year, and when the daughter who captured him, now fully grown, took him there the other day, he pulled the leash all the way there, he romped like a puppy, he came home docilely, and the next day, when he needed to go out and pee, he came back up the steps slowly, painfully, hobbling and arthritic.
I gave him a small aspirin wrapped in some cheese. It’s the one-third size aspirin I take for my own heart problems. My inheritance of high blood pressure and high cholesterol has moved me to aspirin therapy, to daily exercise, to a daily drug regimen. But now in the mid-afternoons my mind goes slack, and the sugar or coffee that once got me through it doesn’t work. I lay down "for just a few minutes" and an hour has gone by. My muscles have gone slack, my blood seems to have fallen to the floor. I can get through the day then, but not in the same way.
I remember now that my dad did the same thing. He had a couch installed at the back of his store, in his "office." I would watch TV in the afternoons, pretending to work. Sometimes a customer would come in, with a problem only my dad could answer. And there I would find him, lying on the couch, curled-up, the same way I find myself today.
The point is that aging is a bitch, for the best of us. Recently I
interviewed a 25 year old, and his 28 year old boss. I felt I had a lot
in common with them, until the younger man ate a huge lunch and then
wanted to play wiffle ball. Me, I wanted to go to sleep.
No matter what your ambitions, or your emotions, or your desire to
see change, age forces its way upon you. I still put Browny on his
tie-out when I let him out, but it’s just honorary. Our
neighborhood is busier than in his youth, it’s whiter, less tolerant of
wandering dogs, and the cars go faster, too. It’s for his safety, but
now he never wanders far. He is more interested in his comforts, in a
bit of cheese. He still wants to feel useful, so each night he settles
into the hallway, the one between my bedroom and the front door, with a
"bump" and a "plop" you can hear throughout the house.
"Protect," I say, although he may only wag his tail at a burglar.
I used to pity people who were aging in place. They seemed to be
just waiting to die. From Browny I have learned they are just trying to
live. And that living is enough.