I have a dog. She turned 10 on July 15th. In dog years, she’s 66. And she’s acting like it.
I remember a time when she was a young jumpy chipper. Days that she would bark at any moving object and dig holes all over the garden. Those were the days she was dog trained by a trainer with the thickest, heaviest leather jacket I have ever seen in my life.
“Tommy, sit!” The trainer would bark.
And Tommy would sit like the good girl she was.
“Tommy, fetch!” He would order as he threw a Frisbee as far as he could.
And Tommy would run heroically and catch it midair and bring it back to us. She was wonderful to watch.
When she got about a month older, Mr. Jacketman decided she was ready for security training – one of Tommy’s hardest times to date. Because like a soldier, the training included physical exercise and tedious attack tactics. See, what Mr. Jacketman used to make her do for physical training was borderline sadistic. Tommy would be tied onto a leash by the neck and Jacketman would tie the other end to a small metal bar on the rear of his motorbike. I would sit on the passenger seat and he’d start the engine. He would start slow as Tommy jogged lazily on the dusty murram. He’d pick up pace gradually and Tommy would have to run faster to keep up. We would do this for approximately two kilometers.
I could tell she hated it by how she would whine and try to escape as I put the leash on her. Even the look she gave me was a please-don’t-let-him-do-this-to-me-again look. I always responded with a sorry-it’s-beyond-my-control-look. And she would act bitchy (Ha!) the rest of the week.
She hated the ‘attacking’ training too. I could tell because she wasn’t the vicious type. All she wanted was to be a pet and play and be asked who’s a good girl.
Where exactly does the transition from ‘who’s a good girl’ to ‘who’s a naughty girl’ happen? What makes girls want to be bad and naughty at a certain age? What makes them love spanks in their older years? And when do they start calling men who aren’t their fathers ‘daddy’? I’ll ask Tommy. She’s 66, she might know.
We forced agitation and violence on her. So after much resistance, she decided to act and fake it after she realized we would never accept her for the playful pet she is, and boy did she become violent. Mr. Jacketman’s job was done and I never saw him or his jacket again.
Now at 66, she sits in the sun staring at nothing in particular and dozing off from time to time. When I open the door, she’ll rush towards me with hope that I might throw her a bone because dogs always want to eat. She lives with her three year old daughter, the one we didn’t sell so she could have some company. Her husband, father to the three year old, died a few years back from a leg wound infection that refused to heal.
Now, she’s not as playful as she used to be. Neither is she violent at strangers. She just sits pants, eats, shits and occasionally fights with her daughter.
She rarely barks and when she does, it’s not usually the majestic bark that punctured our serene nights a few years ago, it’s a 66 year old bark. A low deep raspy bark that sounds like she’s clearing her throat. She drinks lot of water too.
Her athleticism faded away like Spiderman in Avengers Infinity War. She only runs when she has to and most of the times, it’s when food is involved. Sometimes when I’m feeling nostalgic and I want us to have a sweet retrospective moment, I take out the Frisbee and throw it and yell, “Fetch!” and she just stares at me blankly like I’ve said the most stupid thing. I go back into the house heartbroken.
I wonder how she feels living for all these years. What she thinks as she stares vacuously at a wall. Is she on her existential journey to find the purpose of her existence? Maybe she regrets not going out with our neighbour’s stud of a German Shepherd. Is she terrified that her once superb sense of smell is deteriorating? Does she judge me when she sees smoke coming out of my room some nights? Does she miss her husband?
She saddens me, Tommy. Sometimes morbid thoughts overwhelm me and I think she wants to die. She has protected us for a decade and now her purpose in life is done. She just wants to close her eyes and never open them. And although she’s healthy now, I know her time’s almost up because a quick google search told me Alsatians live for 9-13 years.
I have roughly only five years, tops, with her and I’m slowly learning to accept it. I sit with her in the sun and I take more photos of her these days. I want to remember her when I’m old and I want my children to see her. For now, though, I’ll keep throwing the Frisbee and hope one day she’ll catch it.