Daze of My Life: Paws for Reflection

Daze of My Life
Paws for Reflection

I've noticed, recently, that my nearly twelve-years-old, golden retriever, Bailey, is walking with a bit of a limp. I've also noticed the gradual whitening of his snout, now almost entirely so (it used to be golden). In addition, he seems not to hear so well anymore and oddly enough, his bark has gotten hoarse and throaty, and not to be ignored; he's eating less and sleeping more. He still wants to go out at every opportunity and when outside he enjoys playing with rocks, sticks and tennis balls as much as ever. Inside the house, he's ready at the drop to my knees, to grab his toys and keep them away, growling incessantly as I reach to pull out whatever he has clenched inside his mouth. He can't walk up stairs anymore and he rarely chases the squirrels or deer that regularly frequent our yard. Yet, he's still a true and loyal dog and fiercely protective of his and our domain. Whatever it is that he can hear, in whatever direction he's hearing it from, he will stare in that direction, seeing whatever it is he can still see and announce his presence. All physical - and mental - conditions notwithstanding, it is a comfort to have him here and noticeably not when he's otherwise engaged, which thanks to our longtime neighbors, the Mulligans', is extremely rare.
In fact, this past Christmas, the Mulligans' gave us a handwritten coupon/certificate, if you will, for "Bailey watch, with a Chester bonus (Chester is our rabbit), unlimited supply, all hours available, no expiration date, just call... " How's that for neighborly assistance!
So yes, Bailey is well thought of and dare I say, well cared for as well. Although I don't feed him any better than I feed myself. And by that I mean, I don't buy him the least expensive, store brand/no-name products, nor do I buy for him - or myself - the everyday/"garden variety"- type brands. What I buy for him I buy for myself - and for my wife and my mother as well - the higher-end, "name" brands, the B+/A- level. I won't - or rather can't - afford to buy the highest-level brands unless they're on sale, but I will look for them, and when the price is right, I will buy high. In general though, I will treat my dog as I treat myself, no better, no worse. I am committed but not how you may think, and as I've said, I do have my limits.
I don't think Bailey's coat needs to shine any more than my hair does. Nor do I feel that his stool needs to be any firmer than mine. Nor do I think it necessary to supplement his diet with vitamins and minerals to moisturize his skin, strengthen his bones, or "promote healthy joint and cartilage maintenance" or put the color and clarity back in his eyes. What greater respect - and appreciation - can I give my dog than to treat him as my equal, in all ways?
However, Bailey may now be older than me, and as such he may need more and different substances added to his regular diet/routine than I presently do. And quite frankly, when I'm the age that Bailey is, I too may finally feel the need to upgrade a bit, and ingest more and different healthy-type substances to aid in my ability to sit and stay or speak and shake. But for right now, I will continue to love and protect him just as I know he will for us; dogs are great that way. And on that subject we are most definitely equal. What seems to matter most to Bailey matters most to me, and you can't buy that in a store or order it on-line. It comes from the heart, whether perfectly healthy or not.

Kenneth B. Lourie is a regionally syndicated columnist who resides in Burtonsville, MD.