Chasing the ball, running from time

Posted 3/23/23

Ollie stood looking at the three steps it takes to get to the back porch. I could read his mind – “do I want to try doing this now, or should I make another round of backyard …

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Chasing the ball, running from time


Ollie stood looking at the three steps it takes to get to the back porch. I could read his mind – “do I want to try doing this now, or should I make another round of backyard sniffs?”

I’m starting to know the feeling all too well, choices come with the effects of age.

To an extent canine companions we’ve had over the years have projected attributes we admire and, in some cases, wish we had. Of course, there are those characteristics we’re just as happy not to inherit from our pets. We’ll leave those out of this column.

Turning to the noteworthy attributes, forever etched in my memory are Binky’s gymnastics. For those being first introduced to Binky in this column, he was a Warwick Animal Shelter rescue. We guess he was a greyhound/Doberman mix with long legs, long nose and loving personality that ran counter to his fearsome bark when defending the car.  We never thought of locking the car when making a quick stop to pick something up at the convenience store. The mere sight of Binky had customers giving the vehicle a wide berth.

It was Binky’s love of running and intense focus that is so memorable. One of his favorite games was to catch a tennis balls that I hit as high and as far as I could. With a spurt of adrenaline, eyes set on the target, Binky would fly across a field to snare the prize before it hit the ground. On average he did it once out of every eight or nine hits. He savored those accomplishments chewing the tennis ball before dropping the gooey green glob for another hit.   

What I admired was his speed, timing and love for what he was doing. Desirable attributes personified by a pet.

Ollie, our spotted coon hound, also a rescue, that we believe to be 14 has always been independent and annoyingly stubborn. He, too, can be focused but rarely on us unless it involves food. Otherwise, his attention is on the pursuit of scent. We quickly learned following his adoption that he would avail himself of any opportunity to explore beyond his immediate bounds, especially if he was to catch sight of a cat, as the case in Warwick, or wind of a deer as happened on more than one occasion in Upstate NY. We fortified the homestead with fencing and an invisible fence. And we added a cow bell to his outdoor collar as rarely could he be counted on to respond to our calls – stubbornness, I would say.

But as of late, age is catching up with Ollie as it will with all of us. He’s mellowed. He’ll bury his head in our laps for a massage and makes coughing-like noises, particularly at dinner, when looking for attention. I doubt his passion to follow a scent is gone. Rather, it’s the ability.

The effect of age is evident. He no longer climbs the stairs to lie in “his” sun chair, muzzle resting on the arm, to survey the neighborhood. He sleeps a lot and he’s growing increasingly fussy about his food.  Carol has gone to endearing lengths – after all, he’s family – to ensure he’s eating something that won’t upset his stomach, leaving sticky messes on the rug or an even more unpleasant smelly deposit.

She’s gotten him a collapsible ramp to get into the back seat of the car that he’s learned is followed by a peanut butter treat when he uses it.

I’ve learned that those pauses at the porch back stairs, accompanied by mournful looks at me, are a request. He once leapt up those stairs. Now they pose a challenge. Sometimes my presence is enough to reassure him and he scrabbles to the porch. And then there have been the times when I’ve helped him up.

The three of us have become partners in this trip and for a first time, Ollie isn’t as stubborn.

side up, column


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