September 6, 2011

Old dogs and older chidren... lunch today.

I sat in the company truck today, in the park, on the edge of the ballfield and watched a young man, maybe twenty.
He was throwing a disc, up into the wind and back, and sometimes the old black dog would get it and sometimes the man would walk to where it lay, pick it up, walk back to his starting place and toss it again.
The old black dog was a Labrador of some kind, female, just a hint of what might have once been dinner for a passel of pups swaying below her as she walked. Not quite very very old yet, but not far from it.
Sometimes she's just walk off, called by some unseen smell, some random memory, some need to wander that none of us will ever know, but always she came back to the man.
This happened often enough that I wondered for just a moment if the two of them were together at all or just some chance meeting at the edge of the ballfield.
Even fifty yards away, however I could see the love and concern in the man's body language, the never quite letting her get out of sight, the hoping that just one more time she'd get the Frisbee. Sometimes she did, but she didn't run after it.

The man as I said was in his very early twenties, perhaps actually twenty, that time when the world both comes to a sudden stop in one way and rushes away uncontrollably in others. He must have had this dog since he was a small child, the bond was simply too seasoned for anything else.
A weekday outing to the park to throw and retrieve seemed to have suddenly become precious and there was sadness upon him as well.
We, all of us, lose as we grow older. Loved ones, Pets, Homes, innocences too many to number but for a man who may have begun the journey of many disparate responsibilities only recently, this man was showing the weight.
While I was looking away the young man got in his old carry-all truck and was going to leave the park at the edge of the ballfield.
He had trouble starting the truck, got out and lifted the hood. A quick slap and wiggle and he was back in the truck. A roar as the engine caught, and he began to roll.
I hadn't seen the dog loaded and it didn't seem to be in the passenger side of the cab, so once again I wondered if I had been wrong about the relationship. I am often wrong about relationships.
As he got closer I saw the old dog standing between the seats, just behind the man, in a way that a dog person knows is out of training and love far more than plopped down on a bucket seat ever would be.
I had stopped staring out of politeness when he had become aware of me watching sometime earlier. I had taken to looking to see what was going on then out to the middle distance we all watch so much in open green areas.
As he passed me, in a way that said to me that he knew that I had seen and understood too all that had happened, he lifted his hand from the wheel. Also as he passed he gifted me with a much older mans gesture, nodded thank you as well. I think he knew that I would not have left that old dog there if he did.
Some hours later, my shift done, the long ride home complete I pulled into my yard and looked for my aging dog. She has stopped coming out of the shop at the sound of my truck since her arthritis has gotten worse. But when I lifted the latch on the fence gate into her quarter acre of the yard she appeared at the door of my workshop and wiggling like a somewhat stiff puppy came to greet me.
I thought of many treasures, most gone, some to go yet, but most of all the furred heart in front of me.

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