Old Men and Dogs

When I was a child, my father did not appear to have much affection for dogs.  We had a great family dog, Tammy, who was a collie.  She was very protective of us kids and also had the strange habit of chasing her tail whenever a car drove by.  It was like she’d start to chase the car, but then her eye caught her tail and she forgot about the car and just went around and around.

Tammy was never allowed in  the house, nor would a cat ever step a paw into our dwellings. My father believed them to be too filthy for human co-habitation. That was until he was in his sixties and one of my brothers gave him a puppy named DEE OH GEE (D-O-G). DOG somehow became the light of my father’s world.  Wherever my father went, DOG was close behind.  My father’s house was his dog’s castle. It was a true love affair and the rest of us just shook our heads at the disconnect between our young father’s view of pets and our old father’s love of DOG.

Funny thing is – I have followed in my father’s emotional path. As a young man, I had dogs around for our children, but I never really connected with them (the dogs, not our children.) However, last year about this time we got a puppy, a Goldendoodle – named her Gracie. She now owns me.

I started wondering, why old men get so attached to dogs after years of somewhat ambivalence towards them? I started examining my thoughts as I interacted with Gracie and here is what I discovered:

Dogs live an abbreviated life, somewhere between 6 and 15 years depending upon the breed.I know I think about how much time I have left on this earth. I wonder about death. I wonder about life. As we age, we start living an abbreviated life too. When I look into Gracie’s big dark brown eyes, I am acutely aware of  the preciousness of life and it feels like she, too, is aware of it all.

Also, dogs just seem to accept you as you are without a lot of expectations.  A good scratch behind the ear is about all Gracie really seems to want from me. As young people, life seems to demand so much from you that there is a peacefulness in just being your limited self.  It feels good to be loved just for being who you are even when you acknowledge how imperfect that might be.

Finally, and related closely to the first two things – time spent interacting with the dog is time spent being fully engaged in the moment.  There is beauty in the moment. There is contentment in the moment.  There is spontaneous and perfect and revealing spiritual poetry in the moment. In the moment is where God’s front door exist. As long as you don’t think about it, it is there. Think about it and it disappears.

As an old man, you suddenly realize how precious life is and that life can only truly be experienced in the moment…and sometimes it takes a dog to teach you such things. Maybe dogs have a saying, “You can teach old people new tricks.”