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.

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