Saturday, November 7, 2015

Birthday ruminations

I turn 42 today. (This year, I will be the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything.) Jack, my golden retriever, is 14 or 15 — an old man. When I got him, he was “two or three,” and I was 29. When I turned thirty, I asked him if I was still cool, and I still remember how he replied that I was obviously the coolest person in the world. Back then, I figured he was the mental equivalent of a young adult, like a human in their early twenties, just getting comfortable with being a grown-up, but still having days when you realize you were a kid not all that long ago.

A few years later Jack and I were the same age: I was in my thirties and he felt like he was too. He needed a lot more exercise than I did but both of us had bodies that mostly worked fine (modulo some back problems for me and some minor seizures for him). We got much of our exercise together on long walks.

Jack in his "thirties."

Then one day I realized he was ten and getting older. He didn’t have as much need to run as he used to. I panicked at the thought of losing him, something that had seemed so far off and suddenly had started to loom. So I got a second dog. (A lot more thought went into Jenny’s arrival, but that was part of it.)

Jenny was a year old when I got her, a baby with an adult sized body. She had been poorly (or not at all) socialized and had a lot of learning to do about the world. We bonded closely and I felt so much like her mom in a way I hadn’t felt about Jack for a long time. He and I were more like peers.

Jenny shortly after she came to live with me.

Today Jenny is 6 and I’m realizing she is finally starting to get close to my mental age. She’s physically in her prime and needs lots of time to run. I’m trying to stay fit and noticing that it’s a little harder to do than it was in my twenties. Jack is fighting off creakiness. For a 15 year old golden he’s doing great, still enjoying coming to the park (at a walking, not running, pace). He recently started underwater treadmill sessions at the local veterinary hospital and has experienced a surge of energy as a result. But his body is starting to betray him: his allergies have progressed as his immune system ages, he’s more and more deaf, and he’s not as eager to wrestle with Jenny as in times gone by.

Time passes. I love these dogs so much.

Jack and Jenny in 2015.