Editorial December 2013 Issue

Where Does the Time Go?

When marked in canine lifetimes, it’s all too fast.

My husband and I were lounging on our sofa the other night, when we both became aware of an odd background noise that didn’t fit into the movie we were watching at all – a sort of growly, snorty, buzzy sound. We looked at each other for a moment, puzzled, before he reached for the remote and paused the movie so we could listen and identify the source of the noise. It was our dog, Otto, sound asleep on a thick dog bed next to the couch, and snoring like a hibernating bear. Or an oncoming train. It was loud!

Nancy Kerns and her dog Otto

“Yo, Otto!” my husband called, trying to wake the dog from his deep slumber. “You’re snoring like an old man, man!”

It took a few moments for Otto to stir. He raised his head and looked at us groggily for a second – “What did you wake me up for?” – wagged his tail, and went back to sleep.

“Sheesh!” my husband remarked. “Is he getting old already?”

“No! For goodness’ sakes, he’s six!” I huffed. “He’s in his prime! And besides, he ran five miles this morning! It’s nighttime! He’s tired!”

“But look at him,” my husband persisted. “His muzzle is getting all grey. And if that whole thing about ‘dog years’ is accurate, he’s around 42; he’s middle-aged, at least!”

Brian was teasing – it’s easy to bait me into defending our dog’s perfection – but I found myself thinking about our exchange again the next day. Otto is a large dog, and large breed dogs don’t generally live as long as smaller dogs. The idea that we have already spent half his life together is just unthinkable. The first couple of years went so fast! Especially since, in those early days, long walks were a daily chore, a requirement for any day that we didn’t want the yard excavated, or something chewed up, or the neighbors annoyed by barking.

Training, too, was a formal and daily event for the first couple of years. We adopted Otto as a 7-month-old former stray, and he had been in the shelter for over two months. He was not particularly knowledgeable about the world in general or humans specifically, and he was easily frightened by strangers, quick movements, and loud noises. I took him through several group training classes, and deliberately socialized him to all sorts of people in all sorts of places.

It was a ton of work, but it really paid off. For the past couple of years, he’s been so good, I take it for granted that he’s going to always be good. I trust him without reservation to behave appropriately with any other dog, whether it’s a boisterous puppy, cranky old lady dog, or somewhat aggressive young male. He’s reliable with strange humans, too, with one exception: toddlers and very young children still sort of give him the willies. There are very few of these in our social circle, so managing this particular thing, by keeping him at a safe distance from small children, has been far easier than working to improve his opinion of toddlers.

But guess what? Time flies for humans, too. My husband’s son, who was 9 when I first met him some 17 years ago, has an 18-month-old son now. A grandson! And they are coming to visit soon, so we have some work to do, installing baby gates in the house and building a happier response to the sight of a toddler in Otto.

And speaking of time, WDJ starts its 17th year of publication with the next issue. It’s been an honor to share this time with you – but where has it gone?

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