No relationship changes more over time than the one you have with your pet. Obviously, it's not going to be the SAME pet; pet lovers can usually list a long line of well-loved canines in the course of a lifetime. Dog lovers are born, I theorize. But the way we interact with our pets changes as we age.
Observing children, I see that the family dog is akin to a great toy. Many kids truly love their family dog and engage with it in spurts. Some days, there is nothing that will come between kid and pup...other days, Fido is on equal footing with a lamp. Kids are fickle or maybe their minds just jump from interest to interest...there's a lot of knowledge getting packed into those young brains.
In adulthood, you OWN the pet. You're fully aware of it's needs, costs, ability to destroy possessions, and value. Adults have dogs because they want them and love them; they're adults and they don't get pushed around by critters. There's regular interaction, but make no mistake: they own the pet and feel the weight of the responsibility. They wear big boy (and girl) pants and that is how they roll.
Then we have the seniors. In our seniority, I truly believe the dog owns us. Time and time again, I've seen this hypothesis supported by the actions of friends and family "of a certain age." No kid, teen or young adult cancels their plans because the dog seems out of sorts or might miss them (if they do, it's usually a lame excuse...be honest...I know you, people). Nor do they talk about their dogs' feelings to the extent older adults do. In fact, seniors do it all the time. Their dogs are full fledged players in their life, on equal footing with a family member.
My grandmother was a dog lover of the highest ilk, and it irked my Dad (my poor Dad is getting a lot of blog real estate lately). As an adult, I don't believe my Dad actually liked pets (and my parents had them!)...there were fleeting moments when he seemed to like them, but then his basic "everything stinks" mood would kick in. I remember THAT well.
My grandmother, on the other hand, would bring her dog into the conversation frequently; she was the type that wanted to make sure you took note of the undeniable cuteness of her dog and its superior intelligence. Both of these factors meant zip to my Dad, who asserted that cute was subjective and most of the "tricks" were dumb or not tricks at all. In fact, we ALL were morons when it came to our perception of pets, according to Dad.
Ginger the Boxer stole my grandmother's heart with its best trick, which she called "talking." She was so proud of Ginger's mad skills. Holding Ginger's chin in her hand, she would look her in the eye and plead, "Say Mama, baby...say mama...now, Ginger, listen to me...say Mama..."
Eventually, Ginger would reply, "Maaaw maaaw." Yay, Ginger! Everyone, take note! Pour on the treats. Now, do it twenty more times...grandma loved that.
As tricks go, dog-talking was a winner. Number one, it was something Ginger would only do for grandma, and that gave her granny-superpowers. Number two, it infuriated my Dad and it couldn't be blamed on me. Winning! My Dad could throw an adult tantrum like a pro, over the least little thing.
It went sorta like this: Dad would immediately get red faced and comment angrily with waaay too much saliva, "That %#$@ dog is not talking!! How stupid can you be?"
That was the sugarcoated version. Of course, he was just genetically crabby, but God forbid you ever told someone else about that talking dog...he would really go off on the subject if his mother-in-law (my grandmother) wasn't present. It was a sight to behold...and it made me laugh. Not in front of him, but in a far off room or outside. Self preservation, you know what I mean.
Sad memories of my grandmother accompany her slow descent into dementia, my least favorite D word. Gone were the days where she could have her own pet; we had watched each love pup die of old age. Eventually, she couldn't maintain her senior apartment, either. It just wasn't safe and her frequent delusions of robbers and assailants made her best friends with the police chief. Thank God for really small towns.
Her youngest daughter took her to her house in the country to live. The daughter's dog, Daisy, was a cozy and loving shepherd mix who took to grandma immediately. Daisy was not stupid. Here was someone who would be with her all day; what's not to like? Grandma was still at the point where she was okay with frequent check-ins and in-laws lived on the same commune-like property--but Daisy was a constant. As in the past, grandma talked to and about the dog often and I thought it was one of the few good things that came out of that time.
Visiting her one Spring, we sat on the porch with the conversation bouncing from subject to subject. All of a sudden she reached over to pet the dog and smiled. She held Daisy's chin in her hand and said, "Would you say Mama for Cheryl?"
It made me tear up for a minute.
And then the dog said, "Mama...mama...mama."
WHHHAAAAATTTTT? No treats came forth, the dog just nudged her. It was like Daisy wanted grandma to ask her to do it again and the whole process was repeated. This was no fluke. I swear the dog was rewarding grandma with her lovely nudges and attention.
In a most wonderful way, Daisy owned grandma. Daisy looked after her and gave grandma her full attention.
Me? I called my Dad and tried to get Daisy to say, "Mama" in the phone. I could hear him yelling, "Why do you all act so #&$% stupid all the time?" (Why, indeed...).
I nearly died laughing and my mother informed me that Daisy said Mama waaaaay too many times when next they visited. Good dog. Stay.
- If your dog is a frequent subject of your conversations...
- If you worry about your dogs feelings...
- If you have ever changed your plans to accommodate your dog...
- If your dog basically runs the show now...
YOU MIGHT BE A GEEZER.
And truthfully, as long as you have a dog, that just might be a wonderful thing.
Check out some of the fine bloggers participating this month's challenge by accessing the master list on the Blogging from A-to-Z April Challenge website.