Wednesday, October 19, 2011

On Sunsets and Old Pups

He reached the end of the leash, the tug on the collar reminding him that six feet was as far as he could go from us. A younger Bear would not have stood for it, straining wildly while one of us hung on tight, the leash wrapped tightly around our hand and wrist. Old Bear, however, accepted the restraint with equanimity. He stood where the leash stopped him and happily barked at the seagulls and sandpipers, looking very pleased with himself when they flew away. We started to trot up and down the beach with him, fully aware that too much running would mean a limping dog later in the evening.

Up and down we went, clearing the beach of those pesky birds. Before we left, we watched another dog chase wildly after a seagull. Nevermind that canines are outmatched when it comes to flying, it's an exercise in futility, in wishful thinking. Bear of 2006 would have torn helter-skelter after the gulls, disappearing from view as Dan's family bellowed hoarsely for him to come back. In classic Bear fashion, he'd come back when he was ready, usually in pursuit of another gull. His wild chase would end with the gull flying in circles above him and him running in those same circles.

It's silly, but you have to admire his persistence.

Watching this other dog, I finally understood what people say about dogs and nostalgia. It's not that they aren't capable of recall, but they don't recall things with emotion the way humans do. His recall isn't tinged with elation, regret, or anger. Bear watched the other dog with tacit approval, as if to say "Not bad, buddy... chasing them's fun, isn't it?" He looked calmly happy and not at all desirous to join in the pursuit of futility. The only time his calm broke was when the other dog started barreling towards him and Dan, hitting them both at full speed with the intention of saying hello. Bear, like a prickly person who doesn't like hugs, recoiled and his old hips buckled underneath him. It was then that he showed his age.

The other dog chasing seagulls (left). Bear of 2006, after chasing a few gulls himself (right).
He'll be thirteen in a few months, but my old boy looks good for a senior pup. I know he won't be here long... it shows in the eyes of veteran dog owners when they ask his age. That quiet pause and sad eyes before they note how good he looks and that his puppy-like antics will take him to fifteen. I hope so, but I also know that he contemplates stairs carefully before slowly ascending them. He misses beds, cars, and couches when he leaps on them, resulting in undignified tumbles. I know he hurts, but generations of working dog genes whisper for him to be stoic. He snarfles and coughs like a true old man. Don't get me started on the gas.

I wish he could live forever, but that's completely selfish. He lives in the now and I try to live that way, too, enjoying every last moment I can with him.

Where are we? On the beaches of Cayucos, where Bear has christened pile after pile of washed-up kelp and dashed into the waves, only to tear back onto solid land when the waves picked him up. He isn't much of a swimmer, y'see.

It's ironic that sunset was the time of beautiful bright light that showcases my Brownie best. Like his life, there's a lot of greatness to sunset, but sadly, sunset also means the end. I'll always remember the irrepressible Bear, the one who was a large and exasperating mixture of adorable and trouble, with a personality larger than life. Yet, I'll remember this one best. The old man who snuggles at every opportunity, shamelessly tugs the heartstrings of everyone he meets, and seems to understand that his body wasn't what it used to be. The one who, no matter how old he is or how red and rheumy his eyes become, sits by me until I go to bed... because the job's not done until everyone is where they should be.

Of course, this is a food blog, so I will talk about some great eats from the Central Coast. However, this is my food blog, so I have to talk about the most important things. Like Bear. At any age, I think he'd agree.

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Darlene Horn said...

What a lovely post about Bear! Thank you for sharing your memories about Bear. He makes growing old look good.

Ani said...

With my fur child being two now, still full of that crazy puppy energy, I can't imagine the day when she slows down. I know it will come sooner than I think, but I try to put it out of my mind. Reading this, seeing your gorgeous photos of Bear, I think, "Is this what parents feel like as they watch their children move through various stages of thei lives?" Your story reminds me to slow down and appreciate my baby everyday I have her. Thank you for that. I think Bear looks incredibly handsome and I wish you many more years with him.

Liz the Chef said...

Bear is so lucky to be so loved. Our pets are so, so special, aren't they? 

Jenny said...

He is beyond cute and he glows with love!! :)

Tracy said...

Aww what a cutie. Thanks for sharing Bear with us!

5 bites