We stopped at the park for one more circus trick. Our dog used to love going down slides. Short ones, long ones, curlicue ones. When we stopped at a playground, she would be upset if she didn't get a turn. We took a short slide, and then we continued on our way home.
Climbing those stairs and skittering down on her outstretched legs probably wasn't exactly what the vet would have recommended for a dog who is, by now, well into her second century of her years. She is feeling her age in ways that I can only hope to manage when I reach my own golden years. I still have the instinct to block the door when someone rings the bell. I still wonder when the stampede and barking will erupt. Those days are done. Sure, every so often the postman will still catch her blurry eye and she will kick up a fuss, but only for a moment or two. She's far too relaxed to let a little thing like daily mail delivery mess with her head.
The fact that our rambunctious puppy has evolved into a mature, elder statesdog as we watch her brother sprout into a teenager in the bedroom down the kitchen makes sense. They came to us, essentially as a matched set. Most couples, I'm told, prefer to start out with the dog first, but we got our baby boy and then felt compelled to get him a furry best friend. It's hard to remember a time when we weren't a family of four.
It was our intent to get the dog first. It just didn't work out that way. My wife bought me a leash and a book, "Running With Your Dog," long before we had fully committed to either pet or progeny. There was a period that seems like just moments now when I put the baby in the jogging stroller and lashed the dog to one hand and pushed with the other as I got a workout for the whole family. Once my son grew out of the passive experience of watching the world go by as I pushed him, my dog remained enthusiastic. When I put on my running shoes and got down on the floor to stretch, she would begin to prance about the living room in anticipation. Back in those days, we would go for miles, with her tugging and leading the way.
These days, she tends to look at me with some mild disdain when I take the leash down off the hook. It's only when my wife is going along that she perks up. She knows that it won't be the same kind of forced march. It will probably allow for a little more time to stop and sniff the neighborhood. That's why I was surprised on Sunday morning when my dog came and laid down next to me as I worked on loosening my calf muscles. When I had finished stretching, I went and picked up her harness and leash. She looked determined. When she was all strapped in and ready to go, we walked out on the porch. I gave her a moment to decide. She didn't need it. She headed down the front steps to the gate. She wasn't dragging me along, but she was determined.
And so we ran. We didn't go as far as we used to. Both of us are currently more concerned with quality over quantity. That's why we stopped at the park. She's a good dog.