Old dogs. They write songs about’em and watermelon wine. They have sayings about ‘em learning new tricks. They even name feet after them, i.e., “My ol’ dogs are shore tired!”
In a dog’s lifespan, they usually figure eight dog years equals one human year. Little dogs usually live longer than big dogs. Fourteen is old for a dog, and Rookie had turned fourteen that year.
Old Rookie was a good-sized spotted hound dog belonging to my friend Tink. I saw the two of them that summer. Tink was lookin’ good. Rookie looked like a dyin’ duck in a thunderstorm. He was drawed up and pore. He panted and gazed into space a lot of the time. He had trouble getting up and down. He stumbled over Popsicle sticks and tumblebugs. It would be fair to say he had lost his bloom.
We thought he was so deaf he couldn’t hear himself bark. But after closer observation, we noticed that when you called him, ol’ Rookie would look the other way. I reckon he was just ignoring us. A privilege we grant older folks of any species.
He practiced “snappin’ flies,” only trouble was after they’d been snapped, he’d open his mouth and the fly would buzz lazily out. Rookie didn’t have many teeth left ya see.
He had fleas, ticks and a squadron of flies that hovered over him like groupies. I suggested we give him a bath and hang an insecticide ear tag on his collar. Tink said he’d considered that but he was afraid the ol’ dog would be lonesome. I didn’t understand. He said ol’ Rookie is packin’ his own peanut gallery.
He’d doze off in the shade of a tree then sit up suddenly and start barking. Then he’d look around with a puzzled look and flop back down in the grass. Barkin’ at old memories.
I saw him walk out to the road and visit with a Doberman female. They sniffed and I saw his tail wag a little and a silly grin slide across his ol’ gray muzzle. I said, “Look at that. He’s still got fire in the furnace!”
Tink glanced at his longtime canine pardner and said, “Don’t get yer hopes up. I think ol’ Rookie’s just havin’ a flashback.”