Baxter is an elegant dog. He has always been a tad tall for his breed, Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, but his long legs and lean body create a perfectly balanced and graceful form beneath his scruffy hair. Baxter is a dog who looks as good wet as he does dry (Kirby, on the other hand, rather needs the fluffy hair). But as he's gotten older, Baxter's beautiful tweedy coat has camouflaged his increasing lumpiness. Thank goodness, the vet tells us these lumps are only lipomas -- benign, fatty growths that are quite common in older dogs, particularly retrievers and other hunting dogs.
It's very hard for me to admit Baxter is getting old. On April 4 he will turn 11 -- he is, most definitely, in his golden years. But he has so much energy, such joie de vivre, it's sometimes hard to see the signs of age. But they're there. When I run my hands down his sides, I feel the landscape of a half-dozen lumps beneath his skin. More on his neck, his chest, down his thighs. All covered by that glorious hair.
The vet always takes meticulous measurements to ensure none are growing at a rapid rate that might suggest some other form of tumor. So far, nothing to worry about, he says. I hope so. I just wish there was something I could do. Some way I could hold off the inevitable decline that begins with a few lumps and the occasional shaky back leg. I don't want to see my boy grow old. I want him to always be the spry, athletic, goofy yet soulful pup I've known and loved for the past decade-plus.
Among other things, one lesson I learned from my father's death is that we must cherish every moment we have with our loved ones. But I sometimes forget this. I too often take my family members -- including our dogs -- for granted. When I get done working, doing all those important things I need to get done, I just know they'll be there.
But they won't.
So today I took a nap with the dogs. Something I haven't done in a while. I stepped away from the computer and curled up next to Baxter on the floor. He stretched and nestled into the crook of my arm. Kirby curled up next to my leg. And we snoozed.