The secret all dog owners know
“Hi, old timer!” said the man in the park. He had bent down to pat my dog, who is an exceptionally handsome basset hound named Jed.
“Hey, buddy,” the man murmured happily, as he clamped his meaty hands on either side of my dog’s head and wiggled his soft, floppy ears. Jed sighed with contentment. Finally, the man looked up to address me. “So how long do these guys live?”
I shouldn’t have been surprised, and yet I always am. This question is brought up almost daily and it never fails to rankle. Usually it comes from a well-meaning person who admires canines but clearly doesn’t own one. People who have dogs would never ask such a thing. To inquire about my pet’s mortality is akin to approaching someone sitting on a bench with their granny and saying, “What’s the lifespan of this old gal?”
Of course I think about how old Jed is. I think about it all the time. The thought is a small, dark cloud hovering over my head, and I am constantly pushing it away.
Jed is 13 years old and he’s going grey. He walks quite slowly, which isn’t unusual for bassets, except that it’s a little leisurely even for him. Also, he’s almost completely deaf. When I call him, he can’t always hear it—or he may be ignoring me to smell a daisy instead. This, too, isn’t that remarkable. Among willful hounds, answering to one’s name is a bit of a novelty.
Jed came into our lives when he was four years old as part of a package deal that included two cats. Jim, my partner, and I had seen his photo on an adoption website, had fallen in love with his freckled snout and decided we should meet. The caption under his picture described a “small” basset hound (he’s not) who doesn’t shed (he does) and his two beloved cats (they hate each other) who must all stay together.
Jim and I almost got knocked over by the 60-pound dog who greeted us at the animals’ former home. Jed came skidding over to Jim, gazed up at him with soulful brown eyes and arched one caramel-coloured brow. Then he wiped his slobber on my pant leg, barked loudly and chased a screeching cat down the hall. Slightly shell-shocked, we agreed to become the new foster family for this crew of creatures. But once they were under our roof, we knew that Jed (and the cats) wouldn’t be leaving.
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