Aging gracefully

When I woke one recent Sunday, I rolled over to the edge of the bed, looked down and saw Molly in her usual sleeping spot on the floor.

Her head snapped up, eyes wide, ears cocked forward. I propped myself on an elbow. Her expression read, "What are we doing today, Boss?"

She is a black lab and border collie mix, with a luxurious, black coat, and a white crest decorating her chest.

I blinked at the morning sunlight and swung my legs over the side. The hair on her tail rippled like an ebony waterfall as she thumped it against the floor.

I stood up and stretched. Molly raised her chest up on her front legs and froze. She pushed up again but still couldn't stand. Then she spread her front legs wide and strained to get off the floor. Her back legs lay limp.

It's bad today, I thought.

I put my hands under her belly and lifted her up. She gratefully licked my nose and staggered behind me into the kitchen for breakfast.

Yesterday I'd taken Molly to a field along Bear Creek for a run. I walked around the field while she scampered back and forth, investigating insects, smells and other things that only dogs' senses can detect.

Today her hips were sore and stiff. As I thought about it, so were mine.

We finished breakfast. Molly gingerly tiptoed through the dog door and down the steps to the backyard. She limped along, favoring her left hip. After patrolling the perimeter, she determined the yard was secure and she could relieve herself.

I stretched a little bit, loosening my back and hips. I wondered if there will come a day when I get her leash and she looks at me with a "No thanks, not today," expression on her face.

Ever since I adopted her as an 8-week-old pup 11 years ago, she goes into a frenzy the moment she hears the leash jingling. She runs into the room barking, skittering across the floor, spinning in circles, wriggling so hard it takes three or four attempts to clip the leash to her collar.

Usually, I take her for runs in fields rather than walks on a leash. I tried to train her to heel but it is hard to control a 70-pound dog lunging at full speed.

Molly climbed back up the steps and through the door. I noticed some of her kinks had worked out.

I poured a second cup of coffee and sat in my easy chair. Molly sat close so I could scratch her ears. What is an aging, arthritic dog to do when her passion is to run at incredible speeds but the results next morning become intolerable?

Although my physical activities had to be curtailed, I have reading, writing, listening to music to occupy my increased leisure time. Let's face it, though, a creature that thinks cat poop is a snack isn't likely to be interested in getting a library card or watching PBS.

I leaned over and murmured, "At least we can compare our aches and pains like a pair of old codgers."

Molly barked. I think she laughed at me. Dogs aren't interested in feeling sorry for themselves or dwelling on maudlin subjects. Aging isn't a problem; aging just is. She doesn't let a few aches and pains spoil a perfectly good day.

Molly rolled on her back, tail wagging, legs kicking in the air, showing me that a belly rub is a perfectly good alternative to the 100-yard dash.

Daniel Latham is a caregiver who has lived in the Rogue Valley since 1983. He lives with his wife and dog in Medford.

Residents of the Rogue Valley are invited to submit articles on all aspects of inner peace — spiritual paths, intuition, guidance, lessons learned, courage, forgiveness, presence, tolerance, challenges of grief or addictions. Send a 600-700-word article to Sally McKirgan at View articles at (search for "inner peace").

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