As Baxter has grown older his walks have become much more routine. Oh he's eager enough to pull me down the road, but he doesn't react to things like he used to. When Bax was a puppy he was a lot like Kirby, jumping at every bug, bird or bit of paper that flew by. If I kicked a pebble he'd pounce on it. If a pigeon sat on the wire above, he'd gawk at it. Pretty much anything that moved caught his attention.
It's tempting to think that an older dog just isn't noticing things as much. But this isn't the case at all. Rather, I believe Baxter isn't missing a thing. He just has the experience to tell him some things are worth looking at and some things aren't.
This became quite obvious to me when we went for a walk the other day. Same route, same plants, same places where the pigeons sit on the telephone pole. Baxter was just walking along at his usual pace when suddenly something stopped him in his tracks. He froze and looked straight up to where a pair of running shoes was dangling from the high wire. He stood there, absolutely riveted by the sight, for what seemed to me an exceedingly long period of time. I didn't ask him to move, I just waited. He watched as the shoes moved ever so slightly in the wind. Now this was novel.
I realized that Baxter isn't just missing things. He's taking it all in, all of the time. He knows where it's normal to see birds or horses or butterflies flitting around. But when something is truly different, it's worth focusing on.
Today we passed the same spot and once again Baxter's attention focused upward. This time there were three pairs of athletic shoes dangling from the wire. Fascinating.
I wonder how long the shoes will remain up there? And I wonder if they'll keep multiplying? I also wonder how many walks it will take before those, too, blend into Baxter's mental map of the "usual" landscape?