Posts Tagged ‘aging’

Buddy hasn’t always liked Lucy – fact is, she can be irritating as hell.

Lucy is a three year old hound, full of boundless energy – fast as the wind and light on her feet like a ballerina.  But that’s where the similarity to a ballerina ends.  More aware of her own enthusiasm than she is of her environment, she doesn’t know her own speed and athletic power.  She crashes into Buddy and me, sits on us and frequently plays too rough for Buddy, precipitating yelps from him and profanity from me.

Buddy has learned, over the last 15 months, to enjoy rough play with other dogs – but he is essentially more delicate.  He will never step on your toes, much less crash into you.  For the first few months we lived here, he clearly found Lucy a pain in the ass and woud not give her the time of day.

But Buddy loves the company of other dogs and these days (not in earlier days) loves to play doggie wrestling and chasing games.  And, since moving to our new area, for doggie play Lucy is the only game in town.  So, a few months ago he began to soften to her – and now he flat-out loves her.

But Lucy is gone with her family for several days of vacation – and Buddy is like bereft: there’s no zest, no spring in his step, when we go for walks he hardly does more than mope along with me.  When Lucy goes back up the hill with us, the two sniff everything.  They go crashing back into the woods at full throttle: even though Buddy’s nine year old full throttle is nothing like Lucy’s three year old, long-legged, game-chasing hunting dog’s full throttle, he chases gamely after her.

Even on his own, Buddy will happily chase a squirrel any day of the week – even when he is having a bad day, even in the dog days of summer, even when the Lucy thrill is gone, he’ll always chase a squirrel when he sees one.  But Lucy sees them a lot further away than Buddy does, so that’s a lot more squirrels to chase – and from a lot longer distance.

So the last couple of days my old Buddy is acting a lot less like his pup self and more like his old man self.  I, for my part, have been intentionally activating my pup self: cuddling him a lot more enthusiastically and wrestling with him a lot more robustly.

That’s really good for me: after a long day at work, it brings me back alive – I feel some zest, get the spring back in my step.

And I see the light come back in Buddy’s eyes.

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Why do dogs age so much faster than us?

If, as they so easily and completely do, they wangle and waggle and wiggle into our lives, minds (I think about Buddy a lot and – look! – write about him a lot) and hearts, seems like they ought to stick around, should be life companions.

But they don’t.  Unless we are very old or die prematurely, our dogs live a lot shorter than we do and eventually ditch us for the great doggie beyond.  It doesn’t seem fair.

When i adopted Buddy, about 15 months ago, he was – in dog years – roughly the same age as my 61 years.  (One dog-age chart i saw at the vet’s showed different dog years as correlating with from 6-8 of our years – different by the different years.  What’s that about?  Do the dog experts really know this?  I don’t get it.)  I didn’t know, when i got him, that Buddy was this old.  The woman who gave him to me actually thought he was 4 1/2, even though – when i pushed her to get his old vet records – she discovered that he had actually been with her for eight years.  How she could have lost track of four years i really don’t get.

When i finally, a few weeks after getting him, was informed of Buddy’s true – relatively advanced – age, my first response was panic about him leaving me relatively soon (unless, of course, the grim reaper comes for me before the doggie reaper comes for him – there’s no way of knowing about these things).  But right after that reaction, the poignancy of his aging process came home to me.  He was then, like i already said, roughly my age in doggie years (actually a couple years younger), but was going to age a lot faster than me.  Already has: in a little over a year of my human aging, he has picked up seven (or six or eight) years.  Really doesn’t seem fair – i really don’t get it.

So, if i’m now 62 (which i guess i am), he’s now 66.  And it’s just gonna keep going that way.

What to do about all this?  Not much i can do, I guess.  Except be aware of it all, witness it all.  He will be, for me, a study in aging – a kind of role model.  At this point, he – like me – acts sometimes like a pup and sometimes like an old man.  But it will progressively be less that way: he will spend more days acting like an old man and fewer acting like a pup.  Just like i will do, only slower.  But still doing it – progressively, inexorably.  Even if i start going to the gym a lot, give up smoking, eat right, think good thoughts, etc., the fountain of youth will still evade me.

There are things i can do – even beyond exercise and diet regimens – to help myself myself age more gracefully. Some of them i am doing (like more and more making peace with being older, even practicing using the term older to describe myself.  (“No”, some of my younger friends say, “you’re not old – you’re really young.”  I say, “You don’t know buster” – or hon -“Youthful, sure, but not young.  No matter how young at heart i may stay, this old body keeps aging.”  Or I’ll introduce a sentence by saying, “These old bones…”.  Claiming it, not avoiding it.

I can stop cringing and start enjoying it when i get my senior discount at the movies or the health food store – even when the young cashier gives it to me without asking.  I can get over the sense of loss that i am no longer even on the screen sexually for young women.  I can enjoy being a father-figure for young women – and a mentor, a wise old man for young men.  I can feel happy when a beautiful young woman acquaintance says she likes that we are getting to know each other because she doesn’t have any older men in her life.  I can appreciate the joys of being less testosterone-driven around attractive women and less wanting to compete with younger men. I can relish that i am finding a much wider of women beautiful – of all ages, figures and facial constellations.

I can embrace the phenomenon that i actually am becoming kind of wise, even when the core of that wisdom is to get it how little i actually know – and becoming more comfortable with being confused.

Some of these graceful-age-inducing developments just happen to me.  I was chatting on-line one evening with a young woman with whom i share a lot of mutual chemistry – stuff that had often confused me. (“What, am i supposed to date her or something?  That’s for Woody Allen or somebody.”)  Even this chat medium was from her age cadre, not mine.  She initiated it – she was in a city far from Asheville, our mutual home, with her sick kid who needs a top-notch cancer center – and was spending several weeks in her child’s hospital room, agonizing some of the time and flat-out bored a lot of the time.  So she rang my chat bell on Facebook (not just for young folks anymore) and we chatted.  I love her a lot and was delighted to spend the time with her, even in a medium that still feels strange to me.

About a half-hour into our digital conversation, i got it: “She feels like a daughter to me!”  My daughter in law, with whom i am very close, has taken – since she married my son just a few months ago – to calling me FIL, which is wonderfully silly and fun.  She – an attractive young woman who just a few years ago came into my life, no kin to me – absolutely feels to me like a daughter.  The daughter i always wanted but never had.  Even though i have not had the life experience and have no idea how to relate to one, Alma definitely feels like a daughter.

Alma opened up the space for me to relate to  – and feel towards – a young woman, even a very attractive one, as a daughter.  And here the same thing was happening with this previously-distractingly-attractive non-familial young woman.  Being able to shift from awkward, odd chemistry with an attractive young woman to a very peaceful connection – this is, for me, a form of graceful aging.  i didn’t create it – wouldn’t have known how to.  I didn’t visualize it, didn’t magnetize it into my life.  Life gave it to me, like a juicy fresh peach.  Peachy-keen.

I can also help Buddy age gracefully: i can give him lots of exercise, good nutritious chemical-free food, move next-door to a three year old hound who loves to play with him and gets him charging after squirrels and stuff – and, of course, give him lots of love.

I can help him and me to age gracefully, but i can’t stop either of us from aging – and he’s gonna age faster than me and probably die well before me.  Doesn’t seem fair – it just is.

And i will suck the juice out of every year we have together.

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