There is a certain rhythm to the early mornings in our home, but none more certain and inviolable as when Sabrina, standing in the middle of the kitchen, surrounded by prancing dogs, says the word, “JEEP.”
All the dogs bust for the garage door and Sabrina loads them into the vehicle whose license plate reads, ‘DOB LIMO.’ (Dobermans, of course.)
A quick run to a nearby convenience store for Sabrina’s morning diet fountain Pepsi, one of the Basic Food Groups. While there, Sabrina has to watch the other customers; the friendly, but unwise animal lovers. One such, walking by the half-opened window and spying my 90 pound Dobie, ‘Rock’, thought he might reach inside and pet him. Sabrina restrained his arm and ardor by explaining that life as a single-limb amputee is vastly over-rated.
Then comes the ride home; heads stuck excitedly out all windows. The dogs know what’s coming next: the run up the drive-way. She lets them out of the car and they charge up our 2/10 mile, winding, climbing driveway. She reloads them, takes them back down, lets them go, etc. Six times. This activity unifies our pack and drains off energy. Not long ago, I accompanied ‘the run.’
The younger dogs’ long legs eat up the distance, but I notice my Rock, though trying hard, lags far behind.
Rock is maybe nine years old. We adopted him from the SPCA. He had been confined to a small cage for most of his youth. His hind-quarters were atrophied by lack of use. Abused by a male, I guessed, considering his fear of me. But I took the time to win his love and affection, and my patience paid off. All the other dogs go to their sleeping places at night; he dozes lightly by the door. No matter what time I come in from work, be it early morning to late at night, I climb the stairs, enter the room, and hear, “Click. Click. Click.” He walks up to me, no jumping, barking or tail-wagging. He simply stands beside me, his head pressed into my thigh. ‘Glad you’re home.’ After a bit of male-bonding and satisfied that I am home and safe, he heads off to his bed. Click. Click. Click.
Moving up the driveway, even un-winded, he has a ‘smile’ on his face; he loves these mornings. The stride of the younger dogs is 18-24 inches long; Rock’s is a chunking 4 inch gait interspersed with lots of walking. But my boy stays at it gamely. Once capable of easily fulfilling his commands, his joints no longer cooperate with his exertions or intent; they are progressively tethered by the gathering years. I know the feeling; and that takes me back to a scene long ago with ‘Chips’, the English Setter I grew up with. He aged far faster than I.
I studied by the fireplace, Chips slept on his mat close by. I finished reading, set the book away and watched the light of the flames play over his body. The welcomed heat finally warmed his old bones and aching joints; he now slept deeply.
As I watched, I noted his legs began to move, almost purposefully. All four would pull back, then recover; this in slow motion. I suddenly realized my Chips was dreaming of running! Sometimes his front paws would flex close to his chest, while his rear legs extended backwards. He was jumping. His muscles unbound by dreaming, he now runs as he once did. As a bird dog, a hunter, he would chase his quarry, but in head-high grass, he would jump above the Broomsage to keep the bird in sight. That night he was again on the hunt.
Perhaps you’ve heard of Ceasar Milan, The Dog Whisperer. There are few people who understand canines as he does. But respect him as I do, he has one belief with which I disagree. “Dogs live only in the moment.” They have no memories.
Sometimes when he sleeps, Rock moves his legs as though running, and I wonder if with him, like Chips, it isn’t precisely that they can no longer run or hunt as they used to, it’s that, lost in dreaming, they still remember when they could.
When the time comes for one of us to ‘cross over’, be it Rock or be it me that does the leaving, one thing I will sorely miss is, click, click, click.By Lucky Garvin [email protected]