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January 30, 2014: Rainbow – Older Model Dog

It’s been difficult getting around because of the ice. In fact, I’ve been deliberating beforehand because it’s been so icy. Yesterday, the sun was shining brightly, so I decided to take the dogs for a walk. As I suspected, the driveway was sheer ice. So I, of course, had to inch my way around it, with Rainbow and Ryder ahead of me on their respective leash and long line, and Jenna following along behind. I have cleats on my Bog boots, without them, I’d have had to slide down the driveway on my butt.

The road had been graveled, and the snowmobile trail had hardened, so once we got going all was quite well. The temps were in the low thirties, and the sun was shining brightly. Beautiful March

weather. Walking on the snowmobile trail was like walking on a sidewalk, it was that packed. Every so often I ventured onto the adjacent snowpack. Walking on it was like walking on water. I found myself thinking that had I stayed inside, I would have missed what turned out to be the best winter walk yet.

On this walk, I spent considerable time watching and thinking about Rainbow, who is now thirteen years old. In the house she now acts and looks like an older dog. (I am not going to say old dog, because in my mind she’s not yet old). She spends considerably more time napping than she used to – I think that when she does this she’s reliving her past. And she’s no longer interested in playing what I used to call “Flip the Bone.” She’d take a bone and flip it in the air, and do this repeatedly, for hours on end. If I was working, I’d hear the bang, bang, bang, bang of the bone falling onto the hardwood floor. Her eyes have also clouded over, and the muscles around her face have atrophied, giving her an old dog look. Yes, at times I do miss the inside dog. The one saving grace is that Rainbow is more alert now that Ryder’s around. It’s hard to nod off when another dog is barking and tearing around the way one used to do.

As for outside dog – there have been a few noticeable changes this past year, to me the most significant being that Rainbow is no longer into chasing sticks or playing a game I called Scorpion – I’d hold onto on side of an old basketball sized ball that had Scorpion written on it, and she’d grab onto the other side and pull. I’m by no means writing Rainbow off. She used to be lightning fast, but still can get up speed. And she still races about with the same sense of self-assuredness as previously. Rainbow’s comfortable in her own skin, and her own skin is comfortable in the great outdoors. It’s always been this way. This is why, when she was younger, she’d routinely run off. Scolding, cajoling, jumping up and down, Rainbow wouldn’t come back if she didn’t feel like it. But always, she’d return, a shit eating grin on her face. The always returning fear, that she’d get caught in a trap, nailed by a moose, or hit by a truck (thankfully) were always unfounded. We never did have to post a Lost Dog sign.

Ryder is giving Rainbow a run for her money. Ryder races about like a dervish, sometimes getting in front of Rainbow, doing play bow, and yipping like the young dog that she is. Rainbow then lopes off, with Ryder in pursuit. Then at other times, Rainbow ignores Ryder. I have Rainbow’s best interest at heart, which is why I bust up the party when Ryder gets nippy. I either distract Ryder – tossing a ball into the works – or I put her on a leash and wait for her to calm down before releasing her. I know from Rainbow’s relaxed continence that she really appreciates this.

I could leave Rainbow behind, and walk Ryder alone, but I sense that Rainbow enjoys Ryder’s company. Today’s walk was indicative of this. The two ran ahead of me a number of times, and they leapt off trail to check things out. On the return portion of our walk, Ryder found a grouse. I don’t know, but perhaps Rainbow left it. Ryder carried the feather corpse most of the way home, stopping every so often to worry it. Neither Rainbow nor I attempted to take it away from Ryder because, as we both decided, it was hers. Ryder eventually dropped it, and then paid it no mind. And neither Rainbow nor Jenna (who was at my heels the entire time) went back for it.

I put Ryder back on the long line near the walk’s end because I didn’t want her to chase possible passing cars. I waited until the near last possible minute before putting a leash on Rainbow because she now only occasionally runs off. It’s pretty remarkable – I never thought I’d see the day when both Pete and I would be referring to her as “the model dog.”

I know that Rainbow won’t live forever – this is just the nature of things. And as I will always contend, it’s one of life’s greatest unfairnesses that dogs have a short life expectancy compared to our own. It’s for this reason that I often wonder what would life be like if it were the other way around; that is, what if dogs lived to be in their eighties and humans only lived to be in their teens? Would our roles then be partially reversed; that is, would our dogs then start caring for us the way we’re supposed to be caring for them?

And so, while there are intimations of Rainbow’s passing, it’s not yet imminent. So rather than dwell upon the foreseen, I am instead going to continue to enjoy having her in our company, because indeed, she’s the best dog, ever.

Next: 31. 1/31/14: Obedience Class #3: A Vegetarian’s Perspective