Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Life is Better with Dogs

It has been a while since this picture was released, but I have to say it is one of my favorite POTUS pictures ever. I can't even begin to say all the reasons why I love this picture, but most could be categorized under "dogs bring joy."

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Flights of Stairs

We met a fellow at the dog park the other day. He had two Irish Wolfhounds and said he lived with them in a relatively small townhome. Wow. These were BIG dogs. I thought about Baxter, who looked small in comparison. We also live in a townhome. And while Baxter is normally pretty low energy in the way he pads around the house, there are times I sense that he's cramped. He just can't cut loose and run around the way he used to when we had a bit more space. This makes visits to the dog park an essential element of life.

Kirby, on the other hand, is just the perfect size for townhome living. He runs around and under the furniture with ease and considers the stairway a recreational area. He likes to take his rubber bouncy artichoke toy and drop it from the top of the stairs, chase it down, grab it at the bottom and run back up to start again. If I sit at the top, he brings the toy to me to drop in a sort of stairway fetch routine (that's the collie in him coming out).

What's most interesting about watching Kirby navigate the stairs is the way he seems to effortlessly "fly" down them. I swear, the movements of his feet are so quick and slight, it appears as if he's not touching at all. His back legs extend fully behind him and from the rear he seems to be sliding down on a cushion of air mere inches from the surface. His feet seem to touch ever so briefly at the landing (appropriately named), as he makes a sharp left then continues "flying" down to the bottom, landing squarely on all fours. It's quite a sight.

It gets even more interesting when Baxter and Kirby attempt to descend the stairs at the same time. Baxter has to take it relatively slowly, as an increase in momentum would likely result in crashing into the landing or a long skid on the hardwood floor at the bottom (we've seen it). Bax is pretty elegant in his stairway style and he usually maintains control. But there's no doubt all four feet are taking turns on the steps. Kirby usually navigates around or under Baxter on the way down, completing the flight in about half the time.

At the dog park, the situation is reversed, however. Baxter takes longer to get up to speed, but once he's there, he glides with an elongated, elegant gait. Kirby starts out fast and scampers at a top speed that's about half of Baxter's.

While both dogs enjoy the dogpark, I tend to think of it as Baxter's time. He needs room to run. And seeing the joy on his face is worth the trip every time.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Not Acting One's Age

I struggle with this one, and apparently so does Baxter.

I feel younger than I am. I'm still working on what I want to be when I grow up. I would still much rather play than do anything else. And I still have the sense that my body should behave like it did 20 years ago; the realization that it doesn't usually comes in the form of aching muscles and kinks in places I didn't know could kink.

Baxter has similar issues, although he doesn't seem to worry about them nearly as much as I do. Hanging around the house he's still the same loafer he's always been. At 10 years old, he's a tad less riled by strange noises than when he was a youth -- he's figured out what's worth getting upset over and what merely warrants a lift of the head and a sigh before going back to sleep.

But at the dogpark, it's play time. And in this milieu he frequently forgets that he's not the limber puppy he used to be. He'll run with abandon, spin around, dip into a play bow, jump up and tag a dog to start a chase. Only once in a while all that running and jumping and spinning results in the kink, the pulled something-or-other that stops him in his tracks. He suddenly gets quite solemn and limps toward the gate. Time to go.

It usually works itself out in a few hours. But when that happens, it always makes me feel a little sad. Like me, Baxter still just wants to play. He doesn't know he's getting older, he just gives it his all. And sometimes his body just doesn't have as much to give. When I stop to think, relative to his expected lifespan, how much older Baxter is than I am, I'm quite amazed and encouraged by his youthful exhuberance. I hope I'm as enthusiastic and curious as he is when I'm his age.

The part that's hard for me to think about is how much faster his life is going by than mine. It's hard to think of Baxter as growing old. I see the little lines around his eyes, the freckles on his light brown nose and the eyes that have a little less shine than they did when he was a youth. But if you didn't know Baxter up close, you would never dream he's in his elderly years. He's in great shape. And when he's running across a field he's beautiful thing to watch -- the elegance of his long stride, nose in the wind, ears flying.

I don't want to see him hurt himself, but I also hope Baxter never loses his playful nature, his joie-de-vivre. And I hope the same for myself. I guess we'll just have to pace ourselves.