Monday on one of our local sports talk radio stations, The Sports Animal, a guest remarked, “Father Time is undefeated.” Pundits often talk about the future of older athletes once a given season ends. Payton Manning served as the illustration for the talk show guest. How an athlete leaves his or her sport depends.
The squirrel, one of several, sprinted down the fence line in his direction. Not toward him but in his line of sight. He did not respond. Nothing. Not so much as a whimper.
Over the past fifteen years such a move by any of our regular long tailed visitors would be a sure provocation. Spurgeon would pursue the intruder with every ounce of energy. During especially dry summers, should the chase cross patch of dirt, dust would fly. Not yesterday.
I witnessed this anomaly pulling out of the driveway. Part of me was hoping I would witness the normal spectacle.
On a few occasions, in his prime, Spurgeon would catch his foe. Most of the time the squirrels won. There would be no chase given this day.
Patty and I have long known this time would come. Dogs, like athletes, have yet to figure a way to come out victorious over Father Time. We have seen the signs.
Aside from moving slower, his hearing seems to take intermittent breaks. Once his ears perked at the slightest noise. Now it is common to call to him from just a few feet and get no response. Maybe it is a male dog thing.
His eyesight is getting weak. When he has heard me calling from nearby, he looks around as if to say, “Where are you?” The incident with the squirrel is a present illustration.
Spurgeon has developed something of a separation anxiety. Most of the time when we leave the house, he prefers to go outside. He protects his small fiefdom. When the weather is such that it puts him in danger, severe wind chills for example, we keep him inside. If we are gone too long he becomes anxious and angry.
At first we thought it was because he did not want to soil the floor. Mostly it is that he is alone. Over the past couple of months he has dug at a section of carpet as if he were digging in dirt. Ruined. We are glad the room where this occurs is being remodeled and includes new flooring. Otherwise, it would be more troublesome.
Now that we think about it, his aversion to stormy weather has intensified. During the day he does not seem bothered. But when thunder and lighting disrupt his night, he interrupts my sleep. Wrestlers and shaky he looks for spot on our bed and the comfort of a petting hand.
Over time we develop relationships with our pets. All of us do. And, they with us.
Over the past ten years we have left Spurgeon with Kimberly and Craig. He pouts. He does not eat well. Once we return he perks up and is quickly back to himself. More recently when I leave for a period of time he often expresses his displeasure with my absence the same way.
We have talked about another dog. Maybe we should get a puppy both for Spurgeon to mentor and to prepare us for his absence. We have also talked about no dog at all after Spurgeon is gone.
Yesterday watching Spurgeon fail to respond to the squirrel as he had left me thinking we may need to begin thinking about helping Father Time. Is he suffering? Surely his anger is not helpful. I know, all of this over a dog. Yes, all of this over a dog.
Patty suggested rather than assist Father Time we should take Surgeon for more walks. We should spend more time with him. We should seize what we have rather than continue to mourn what we may not have.
Maybe stories like this bore you. But, it could be that stories like this provide an occasion to reflect on all relationships in life. If we cannot pick up important notes in what most consider a lesser human interest, a pet, then it is likely we will surely miss what helps us create relationships that flourish.
First, walk more. Patty suggested we walk Spurgeon more. If his eye sight and hearing are diminished his need is more companionship, not less. Caring for a pet breeds empathy. Few would argue our world could use more empathy.
Empathy is difficult to develop when we are wrapped up in ourselves, when every relationship or event is all about us.
Second, do something new rather than mourn what you cannot do. You may find this little more than a turn on the distinction between viewing the cup either half full or half empty. The difference is the call to do something. Musing about your perspective does not necessarily move you.
I cannot prolong Spurgeon’s life. Sure we may take him to the Vet when he is sick, needs his annual vaccines, or another issue we consider health maintenance. But, I cannot extend his years by sheer will of desire. Limitations often produce feelings of grief. Rather than wallow in what we cannot change, look for what we can do.
Third, choose to flourish with possibilities rather than fumble opportunities with pessimism. Closely tied to mourning what we cannot do is the reality that when downcast we miss what may be right in front of us. Figuratively, when our heads are down we may miss an opportunity.
Life is seldom reduced to an either/or. These sorts of limits stem from seeing everything as a dualism. Flip a coin. Instead, if we take a bit more time, keep our heads up, we may discover what to that point had been hidden by our own malaise, our own melancholy.
Finally, follow the Lure of Love. We love Spurgeon. There have been other dogs in our family – Barney, Chelsea, Bubba, and Brooks. None of them died of old age. Looking back they represented different times in our lives. Barney, for example, was our very first pet when we moved to Gould, OK. He traveled with us to Milford, TX, but he contracted a disease and died. Chelsea was the only dog we have ever purchases. She was an Alaskan Malamute. We believe she was not well from the beginning. Bubba came to us from a young girl in Milford, TX. He traveled with us to Tuttle. We think the heat got him one summer fifteen years ago.
Spurgeon came along in the fall after Bubba died. Father Time will not be defeated by Spurgeon. Who knows when that will come. His health simply gives pause to consider his place in our family. Patty is optimistic. We simply will enjoy him in a different phase of his life.
Love drives us to recast what could otherwise be difficult to consider. It does not mean there are no disappointments or pain. It means that we have a different lens through which we may look.
Today will be warmer. The sun is out. And, so is Spurgeon, enjoying he fiefdom.
Featured Image – Patty snapped this one earlier this week. Maybe after one of our conversations about Spurgeon’s future.