Saturday, May 2, 2009

I saw my dog as a puppy today

After four-and-a-half heavy, humid, breeze-less miles, my run was almost over. Just a half-circle around the park by my house and I was done.

As always on a Saturday morning, soccer-playing kids filled the fields; younger ones climbed on the jungle gym. People and dogs of all ages ran and walked the park's circumference.

I wasn't paying a whole lot of attention to those sharing the concrete path. But when I saw a woman -- more accurately, her dog -- I did a double-take. There was my Sally, my soon-to-turn 12-year-old dog, as a teen-ager.

Her eyes were clear; the black of her coat ebony, the white like snow. Even her collar was pure red: Fresh, unfaded, new.

Her whole body moved when she walked. She was eager, curious, attuned to every movment around her. I said a quick "hi" and her ears perked up as if she couldn't wait to hear more.

I turned around once after we passed. The dog's tail was still wagging, her head looking back and forth.

When I got home, Sally was lying on the rug in the living room. She lifted up her head when I came in, and wagged her tail when I called her name. These days, the black and white on her face and on her feet make gray. Her red collar is almost pink. But she is loyal, she is kind; she is smart and she is sweet.

I cannot make her curious; nor can I make her eager or young, and I am not sure I would want to. I am, instead, grateful for the dog Sally was and, more importantly, for the one she is.

I'm going to buy her a new collar today, one that is red and fresh and new. When I put it around her neck and scratch her head, I know she'll wag her tail. She'll sit when I give her a bone and, though she doesn't have the energy to walk around the park, she'll lie down at my feet when I read on the front porch, as happy to be close by as I am to have her there.

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