I've always waited for the perfect moment to be happy: As though time were a flower waiting to bloom. My scruffy puppy-happy senior dog knows better. Watching his tail wag as he stands in the middle of a mud puddle, I now understand that happiness is where your heart is, not just where your legs travel.
Last summer we moved into the house of our dreams: Beautiful, big and by a football-sized off-leash dog park. Finally a chance for my Border collie cross, Tucker, to exercise his herding instincts by running ahead of me across an expansive field. Yet it didn't work out that way.
Whoever wrote "every dog has his day" must have seen my dog stretching into sunset at the dog park. He was happy. I was happy. It didn't last. Things appeared fine at first as Tucker romped and ran, sniffed roaming canine rumps and rested. Soon however, rest took precedence. Running slowed to a dawdle and Tucker's yearn to exert fell to panting apathy. He was exhausted. I was scared. I understand that as dogs age they prefer rest rather than racing, but this wasn't it. Something was wrong.
Only 8 months after Tucker and I arrived at his doggy mecca, his health required that we visit his most dreaded destination: The vet. Dogs don't like vets. Every time you take a dog to the vet it's like taking a child to the dentist without the lure of the lollipop that follows. Tucker was not happy. He wriggled on the table as the doggie doctor poked, prodded and became the stuff of doggy nightmares. Yet there was something for Tucker to be thankful for; he could hear neither the diagnosis nor prognosis. Apparently Tucker has a disk in his spine that was slowly crumbling, making it increasingly harder for him to romp. No more running. No more leaping to fetch a stick mid-air. His days of glory spent embracing that part of him that's Border collie frantic are over. Forever.
At first I cried. I was angry. I wanted our time at the dog park to last forever. Now all that will last is its memory. Yet this has taught me a valuable lesson: Happiness does not happen on a schedule. I missed many potential happy hours by staring resentfully at my tiny back yard instead of throwing a ball across it. Now I'd give anything to watch Tucker run around the corners of that worn wooden fence. But he can't run. Not far. Not often. Not anymore.
Yet today we're happy. As cheeky as it is to speak for my dog, I believe he doesn't miss his fleet feet and agility. How do I know? His tail and ears bear witness. The grass is still soft and the frayed stick still magnificent in its resistance. Age doesn't change this. Health doesn't change this. The only thing that changes this is attitude.
My dog is getting older. One day, maybe soon, I will only stroke his smiling face through the lens of a photo frame. But today as I pat him, smell his earthy odor and hear the occasional jingle of his dog collar, I can't help but smile. I've waited a long time for an excuse to be happy. Tucker wags his tail like a rapid pendulum as I offer him a rejected section of toast. He savors it like steak.
Sometimes I wish I were as smart as my dog.
Galina Pembroke is the publisher and editor of New View online magazine, as well as an internationally published writer. She specializes in health. New View magazine features articles on health, self-help, alternative therapies, spirituality, animal rights and more. Visit us at http://www.nuvunow.ca