This post appeared first in the weekly column, “Denim Spirit” for The Finger Lakes Times (NY)
Rabia never wakes up grumpy, and as far as I can tell, is never stiff in the morning either. In fact, she is always happy.
Not all dogs are like that, of course, but mine is.
She never met another dog she didn’t like. Never mind that the little lap dog across the driveway barks ceaselessly at her from behind the fence. The bulldog down the way doesn’t think much of Rabia either. Our neighborhood is rife with Labrador Retrievers, especially black ones. Two of the three black labs we run into with some regularity, would just as soon bite Rabia as look at her. But the third, ah, she’s a playmate.
Kayleigh (which would be the highfaluting way to spell it, or more commonly, Kaylee), relentlessly loves the world also. When Kayleigh and Rabia see one another from across the street, and even from down the block, they both do the same thing: each one gets down on all fours, belly to chin upon the ground, tails swaying like marsh grass in the wind.
As they approach one another, they may lie down again, and then without warning, pounce. Both dogs leashed, they frolic and jump and paw each other with abandon, as owner Jim and I, make like puppet masters to keep the leashes from getting tangled. It tickles me to see their kindred spirits dance above them as they prance and paw.
Once we leave childhood, most of us do not get to frolic like that, and more is the pity.
I played basketball with some regularity until my early fifties when simultaneously, both my back and knees ordered me to quit. Being a large human being, and neither fast nor a stunning dribbler, my portion was rough and tumble play in the paint. It was fun, even frolicking in a weird kind of way. But now, such cavorting seems limited to toddlers and dogs, and my wife of course, when she is in the mood.
If there was an ocean nearby, then gamboling in the waves would be an option. But alas, no ocean, and Seneca Lake is too damn cold.
Rabia is three years old, which means she has a lot of frisk and romp left in her. But I have noticed a disconcerting change. I walk her each day past the historic cemetery on Washington Street, which has a lovely bench at the corner. For the past few weeks, as we turn around and head for home, Rabia makes for the bench as we pass. Her tail wagging, she leads me away from the sidewalk and jumps up on the bench. We sit there like two old people watching the world go by.
She seems to like to sit there and survey the street from a human perch on the world, but I wonder if it isn’t a kind of post-cavorting behavior? Is she getting ready for when she is an old dog, learning how it is done in advance? Actually, I think it is because the only furniture we allow her to sit on is outdoors.
This new behavior of hers bears watching though, because she is my cavorter-in-chief and I am not ready to lose her as a resource too. That is one of the things about aging, I have noticed. We keep losing stuff, like capacity and ability, so it is a matter of more and greater creativity in order to compensate. Rabia doesn’t know it, and she wouldn’t care, but she is part of my compensation strategy.