Lessons I’ve Learned from My Dogs


           Sparky, my Shih Tzu-poodle, is fourteen and a half years old. I’ve had him since he was a puppy. He ages faster than me, so I had a harbinger of things to come. He was quite frisky as a pup and remained so until he was about six.

He lived with my other dogs and always had companions to play with. They were partners in crime. He would get the cupboard door to the garbage can open a bit so that Melvin, my golden retriever, could pull it out. They both would feast and create mayhem. And Sparky would jump up on the kitchen counters and knock food off that both dogs would relish. After Melvin died, it was just Sparky and Oreo the cat. He was still up to teasing her and vice versa. At age six he became an only pet because I gave the cat to a friend. (Oreo did not make a good transition to living in a condo.)

I nicknamed Sparky “Houdini” because he could escape the house if the front door opened an inch. When he stayed with Elissa in Sun City during the ten weeks I was in China in 2007, the Sheriff’s posse knew his name and where he lived.


In 2010 I rescued Louie, a Bichon-poodle, when he was approximately seven years old. Louie’s temperament is quite different from Sparky’s. I nicknamed him Louie the Lump because he slept a lot and liked to lie on my lap or next to me.

Sparky starting slowing down with age. I no longer had to keep all food off the counter because he couldn’t jump up anymore. Two years ago he stopped being able to jump on the furniture or my bed. As I get less achier, I hark back to Sparky’s loss of agility.

Sparky’s developed lots of cysts, skin tags, and warts. Now I called him Bumpy Lumpy. It reminds me of the brown spots and skin tags I’m acquiring.

His physique has changed, too. He used to carry his weight in his chest, like a proud muscle man. Although he hasn’t gained any weight, he carries his weight in his belly.

He started to develop cataracts around age eight. I also developed cataracts but I was lucky enough to be a person and got them removed and corrective lens implanted so that I see better.

He is going deaf but somehow he can hear the crinkle of a potato chip bag or the unzipping of a dog treat container. And I don’t think I’ll ever lose my sweet tooth. My mother didn’t. She enjoyed chocolate milkshakes and hot fudge sundaes to the end of her life.

Louie and Sparky used to play with toys. One would pick up a toy and the other would snatch the other end. They loved playing tug of war. And they would chase each other around the house. When we have a dog staying with us, Louie will play like he used to with Sparky. Every once in a while Sparky will join in.

I’m still spry and full of energy, but I can see, through my dogs, that I will slow down and sleep more. I hope I remain as easy-going and good tempered as they are.



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