He sinks and slips as his hind legs falter under the weight of the rest of his body. He parks his rear end on any cushiony non-slip surface, like a yoga mat, so that he can make for an easy get-up. Staircases? No way. He avoids those at all costs, re-routing to the gradual incline of the driveway. Each movement is calculated carefully to conserve energy . He goes to great length to be close to the ones he loves.
Even if that means getting stuck…
I spent quite a bit of time with my old man, Luke, these past two months in California.
For those of you who don’t know, Luke is my 14-year-old golden retriever. We scooped him up from the lawn down the road when our neighbors had puppies. Then, I was eleven, and terrified of this teething fur-ball with the crooked tail.
It wasn’t long before he won me over. We became inseparable, whether he liked it or not. I would climb into his smelly crate in the garage, wiggle him onto my lap, and sing him to sleep when he was afraid.
Like all pups, Luke was quite the handful. Extremely stubborn and extremely loving. I remember when he would lay down SPLAT on the sidewalk in the middle of our walk, when we did not go in the direction of the green, grassy park. He would whine and bark sharply when he was left alone at night. There were
a few many bathroom accidents. He was rambunctious, he was fun, he was naughty, he was always sleepy. HE WAS A BABY.
Luke grew into a fine young man – a handsome, peaceful chap, mild and docile, and with good conscience. He respected the laws of the land and diligently upheld his duties as a part of the family. He knew that good behavior meant chicken, and that bad behavior meant a scolding. He hardly barked, unless we asked him to “SPEAK” or if he saw a skunk lounging on the fence. When he did get into trouble, he would park himself in the corner, hiding his nose in his paws – the guilts would really get to him.
2014, year 14, Luke has changed.
In structure, he has aged – arthritis, joint pains, accidents in the house. In mind, he has become sharp and stubborn, refusing to step out in the backyard unless there is an ulterior motive, like a meaty mango seed accompanying his departure. In heart, he is clear what he wants and unyielding, often positioning himself swiftly and stubbornly on the forbidden carpet areas of the house so that he can watch the World Cup with us too.
Rules are obsolete and overrated. He practices selective hearing, listening only to his heart (and stomach). Luke no longer feels shame or guilt, as even after misbehaving, he prances about excitedly because he is so happy to be with us! Luke has become a baby again. A VERY VERY CLEVER BABY.
It is fascinating to witness his freedom. I am observing that perhaps old age turns us into wise babies, knocking down all formalities and bringing clarity to what the heart truly wants.
For Luke, it is the soft, cuddly, warm people around him that he craves. And chicken.
- Four hugs a day.
- Beautiful Disaster