Thursday, July 24, 2008

Happy Birthday to Josie the Super Dog



Today is our pooch's 7th birthday! Naturally, I felt compelled to write about it.

Happy Birthday, Josie!

I've written about Josie before. She's quite the character. Cute. Highly intelligent (sometimes). Extremely energetic (most of the time). Very social. Not very well behaved. (Totally our fault. I've been told I "babied" her too much as a puppy. Based on that, you can just imagine what Super Boy is like.)

I hate to admit it, but I've really been dreading my dog's birthday. I know that sounds silly, crazy even. But here's the thing: I realized that with Josie turning seven (which is 49 in dog years), she's most likely got fewer years ahead of her now than she has behind her. And that makes me very sad.

It was different when Josie turned six (42). My husband is 42 and that's really not old. Which isn't to say that seven (or 49) is old, but the reality is that Labs don't usually live much beyond 12 or 13 years, which means Josie will be lucky if she has another five or six years left. And the other reality is that those remaining years are likely to be less active and healthy than the seven years she's already lived.

And although she drives me crazy at least twice each day with her antics, I can't bear the thought of the day when we have to say goodbye to her.

You're probably sitting there thinking, "Why are you thinking about this now when she's only seven?" Well, friends, because that's what I do: I worry. Constantly.

I think it's a genetic trait, to be perfectly honest. I come from a long line of worriers. Ulcers are common in my family. In fact, I had one brewing by the time I was 9 years old. Nice, huh?

I'm trying to put my feelings about my aging pooch into some perspective. Obviously we knew all along that odds were that we'd outlive her (and by a significant number of years at that), but that all seemed so... nebulous and far away when we were bringing her home as an eight-week-old puppy.

When you think about a span of twelve to fourteen years, it seems so long, like it'll pass slowly and deliberately and noticeably. And it certainly felt like her year of puppyhood passed excruciatingly slowly. At times it felt like the house-training and obedience training would never end! But the years since then have gone by in the blink of an eye. No doubt because we got so busy with our jobs, and then had Super Boy, and had plenty of renovation to do on our house, and a million other little things. But in retrospect it seems like she aged in double-time, and I find myself already longing for a few extra - but good - years with our super dog.

Today as I looked at her puppy pictures and then really looked closely at her, I noticed that her muzzle is starting to look a little gray. I definitely noticed (mostly from her stinky dog breath) that she's due for a teeth cleaning again, and her gums and nose look more like an older dog's. I watched how she moves just a little bit slower when getting up from the floor, and how she pauses and pants a little bit longer in between fetching her soccer ball after I've kicked it the length of our yard.

She doesn't look like a puppy anymore. She doesn't even look like a young dog anymore. She looks like the middle-aged dog she is. And I can feel the ache for her already starting in the pit of my stomach as I begin to imagine her slow decline and, eventually, her departure for The Great Beyond.

For now, though, I'll try to pay a little more attention to her, to give her a little extra love each day, to let her know how much we've loved having her as part of our family - our great protector. I'll take her for extra walks, slip her an extra biscuit here and there, take a few extra pictures of her, to document her life a little better.

Happy 7th Birthday, Josie girl. Sleep well tonight and know that you're loved.

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