Learning to Live Like an Old Dog
Note: This slice of senior dog life was written by board member M.L. Groy. I can attest that it illustrates a common experience for those of us who have taken the time to learn from the wisdom of our senior canine companions.
Suzy is an old dog. I have no idea how old. I took her in temporarily as a favor to a struggling
acquaintance who has never returned. Suzy and I are okay with that.
She is a black Labrador. Her hind quarters are a bit stiff and her mouth is a ring of gray but it
does not stop her from dancing and smiling each morning when I pop open a can of food. From time-
to-time, she will even chase a ball down a short hall three or four times before lying down with it
between her forepaws to catch her breath. I can see that chasing the ball may have once been a single-
minded pursuit for her. Not anymore.
We walk most mornings, after her breakfast but before mine. It has been an adjustment
learning to mosey. Our half mile loop takes a good thirty minutes. In the beginning, I would lightly tug
the leash when she would stop, snout to the ground, enraptured by a fat tuft of grass. And she would
come, good girl that she is.
I don’t know why I was in such a hurry. We walk at five in the morning. The day is quiet and
softly lit. There is no pressure or expectation. There is just Suzy and me, and all of those captivating
things in the grass every twenty feet. Yet stopping made me anxious. I was compelled to keep moving.
Suzy, however, was satisfied with her head down, breathing in a small patch of the world, until she knew
it well enough to move on. I tried to be patient but I almost always tugged before she was done.
This went on for months, her sniffing, me tugging, until a warm Thursday evening after several
non-stop weeks. I was weary. I had downloaded an audiobook, a novel, onto my phone earlier in the
day because it had been so long since I had enjoyed the pleasure of a story. It was playing through the
speakers of my car. So, when I pulled into my garage, I just sat there in the driver’s seat with my eyes
closed, listening. Imagining. It filled me up somehow. I was lighter, happier.
The door from the house to the garage opened. My son stood in the threshold smirking at me.
“What are you doing?” he asked. “Nothing,” I said. Then, being the good girl that I am, I turned off the car and made my way inside.
The next morning, I studied the delicate pink strip inside Suzy’s floppy upper lip as she leaned
forward into an overgrown mound of turf when it hit me. Each day, Suzy read a thousand well-told
stories with her magnificent nose. And I smirked at her from the doorway, so single-minded about my
pursuit of the ball. Why did I feel anxious to let it rest between my forepaws for a spell? Why did I deny
myself the simple pleasure of a good sniff in the grass?
We downright dawdle around the block these days. She has her favorite spots where she lingers: the mess of leaves blown up against a juniper; that patchy corner by that fence where the pugs live; and the juicy knoll of clover in the yard on the corner. I stand with slack in the leash, listening to my book and admiring the morning, until she has read the very last line.