The inner puppy at rest

Cid is 9 years old this month. We don’t know his exact birthday, but the shelter where Marie got him back in March 2000 knew how old he was when he came in, five weeks, along with his siblings and a mom who’d been really busy because none of the kids looked alike.

Whoever said that the world’s best psychiatrist is a puppy licking your face was only partially on target. He or she missed that even an old guy like Cid–for at age 9 he is officially an “old dog”–can provide the same comfort. A couple of good slurps is all it takes. The world may not be full of tweeting birds with a Tree of Knowledge in the middle of the backyard, but that big doggy tongue sets an awful lot to right.

The gray in his muzzle wasn’t there a couple of years ago. Like humans, his hair turns color. Unlike humans, he doesn’t care enough to try to color it.


I taught a poem to my Community College composition people yesterday. The ones who have dogs at home got it at once. Mark Doty wrote it about one of his Golden Retrievers. Appropriate to what we learn from our dogs, he called it “Golden Retrievals.”

Golden Retrievals

Fetch? Balls and sticks capture my attention
seconds at a time. Catch? I don’t think so.
Bunny, tumbling leaf, a squirrel who’s—oh
joy—actually scared. Sniff the wind, then
I’m off again: muck, pond, ditch, residue
of any thrillingly dead thing. And you?
Either you’re sunk in the past, half our walk,
thinking of what you never can bring back,
or else you’re off in some fog concerning
—tomorrow, is that what you call it? My work:
to unsnare time’s warp (and woof!), retrieving,
my haze-headed friend, you. This shining bark,
a Zen master’s bronzy gong, calls you here,
entirely, now: bow-wow, bow-wow, bow-wow.


A dog comes with a very simple instruction manual:

1. Put leash on dog.
2. Take dog for walk.
3. Observe dog’s totally attentive In The Now mindful behavior.
4. Remove head from ass.

One of my students doesn’t walk her dog. I was slightly aghast until she told me it’s a Pomeranian. You don’t have to take them out, though what dog can resist a romp or at least a stroll? You can train little dogs to go on a puppy pad. True, it spares you going out on nights when even the Eskimos stay indoors, but you also miss much of the companionship that comes from watching the dog sniffing the world around him, identifying who’s there by the odors he picks up, talking to him, and protecting him from the local trailer trash who leave antifreeze pools in the street.

Cid still has puppy in him, even now. He is starting to slow down, just a bit–but not enough so periodically the inner puppy doesn’t break out whencid1 he’s off-lead on the beach and finds a dog to romp with. Our best guess via one of those online equivalency calculators is that Cid is anywhere from 56 to his early 60s. He’s getting up there, right along with me. When I take him out now I refer to a walk by the two grumpy old men. But he’s not grumpy. He’s not bashful or sneezy either. He’s happy and beautiful and I love him.

2 thoughts on “The inner puppy at rest

  1. Ginny

    Shame on your student for not walking her Pomeranian. A Pom is wholly and truly dog, and benefits as much from interacting with the world as does any dog – or living being for that matter.

    And refer to variations in litter type in Clarence Pfaffenberger’s New Knowledge of Dog Behavior (I think originally published in 1963, but maybe earlier.) A wide variation of type in random bred dogs does not necessarily indicate multiple sires. Although that is possible, it is generally a difference in the apparent gestational age of the neonates that suggests this, rather than in type.

    Cid is looking venerable. Love his Andy Rooney eye brows. There’s a certain adorable curmudgeonliness about old dogs. I must say that he looks much older than either of mine who will be 9 and 11 this year. Time passes too quickly. When one counts one’s own age by the dog lives one has shared, this becomes patently clear.

  2. Kenneth Wolman

    I know another person with two fuzzball dogs (shi-tzus) who rarely go out in winter but do during the summer. They play with Cid on the beach. No fear. As for Cid’s paternity and child support?:-). Nobody knew the dad or dads–I’m not sure who brought the lot of them to the SPCA in early 2000, but it was an act of goodness and mercy. There are so damned many strays, as you know–along with the feral cats at the Shore they live a nasty, brutish, and short existence. I had no idea one father could produce five different-looking pups. As for Cid, ain’t he gorgeous?? The thought of him aging is a bit sad, but Nature has mellowed him somewhat so he’s much less excitable. He still has his unpredictable moments, yes, but most of the time he’s content to lay around, and he has pretty much “told” us that he doesn’t like really long walks anymore. The vet checked him out a couple of months ago, and aside from having to drop some weight, everything is where it should be–except he’s not young anymore. So who is?


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