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The Joy Of Old Dogs

Aging can be tough on dogs, just like humans, but sometimes they face it with more dignity than we do.

Simba is a 13-year-old who enjoys playing tug-of-war with the author. “I pretend I’m no match for his grip,” writes Amy Robinson. “But when the new puppy in the home latches on, Simba instantly releases me, watching like a kindly grandfather as the youngster prances away.”

Simba is a 13-year-old who enjoys playing tug-of-war with the author. “I pretend I’m no match for his grip,” writes Amy Robinson. “But when the new puppy in the home latches on, Simba instantly releases me, watching like a kindly grandfather as the youngster prances away.”

Some have the bearing of royalty – heads held high, posture erect. Others have a quiet dignity that does not command attention, but receive it gracefully, as due to them. One can experience canine seniors through a beloved pet resolutely moving through a condensed life span under our noses. To make the acquaintance of an older dog, and view the full force of his most vital years written fully on his face, is a special interaction that leaves an emotional imprint.

Twelve years ago in Chicago during my drive to work, I was surprised to see an imposing Rottweiler alone and on the move. His big trot outpaced briefcase-toting commuters that eyed him cautiously as they marched to the trains on Clybourn Avenue. Traffic sped by just a few feet from the curb, and I crossed three lanes to zoom ahead and intercept him before the imperiled dog was struck.

Up close, I saw not a robust, wayward pet but a gaunt and matted dog busily inhaling a piece of moldy bread from the filthy gutter. I swallowed and approached slowly, body turned sideways and hand extended.

“Hi, big boy! Hey, sweetie!” No response, just sniffing the gutter for crumbs. I waved my lunch bag back and forth and his nose came up twitching. He saw the movement of the bag and looked at me with an unflinching gaze. Half of my sandwich disappeared quickly down his throat and his tail beat time. Our connection was instantly forged and I loaded him in my car.

Read the entire article in the March 2012 issue