Well Buddy, you are officially a “senior dog,” turning eight years old today. You are slowing a bit in your step … especially after our long runs. Mornings are less friendly, joints stiffer. For us both. As I finish my first coffee with you alongside, I see us both limber up, ready for the day.
I envy your ability to curl up and hibernate for hours, checking on me periodically through a single half-opened eyelid. But I envy so many things about you: your tolerance of my training goofs, the stoic mid-distance stare that asks questions of everyone and everything … and especially your patience with your grand-nephew Manny. I think he’s responsible for most of the scars, scratches and scrapes you’ve endured the past two years!
Buddy, you deserved to be a NAVHDA Utility Dog, and I’m sorry we never got to that test. You have all it takes, raw natural ability and the discipline. Through Manny, you will receive your due.
As you age the contrast between you and your nephew becomes an open book. You: methodical and disciplined, thorough and always ready to comply. You are a four-legged Boy Scout. Him: wild-eyed and coming-off-the-rails sometimes, earnest and eager the next moment. He is the young Marlon Brando without a motorcycle. I have come to appreciate those differences, each of you in turn bringing to the fore what I love most about the other.
When you circle twice then lie down, sighing, I know you are at peace, at least for a while. Still vigilant, guardian of our household, and steadfast companion to your humans and your nephew while you rest mind and body. It is a well-deserved rest.
I promise to give you longer breaks between hunts as your nephew grows stronger, but I also promise to let you roam the fields questing for the sweet scent of birds as long as you are able. When you are ready to rest, Manny will spell you. But he will never replace you in the hearts of me and the friends who have hunted with us.