In my heyday, my lady friend and I would go to the Chicago dog beach by the Montrose Harbor. We always parked at the end by the bird sanctuary and then walked the mile or so to the designated dog area. This pretty much took place at least once a week for several years.
There are these four foot concrete walls to separate the sand from tall grasses and there are large open spans for people to walk through. I would first leap, without a running start and simply from standing, onto these walls and then jump the 3 foot span between them as we walked along. It was my thing. I was always doing this: leaping on high walls and swiftly navigating them like a mountain goat.
Families would stop and watch and some tourists would snap pictures. Grown adults from far away countries would giggle and run towards me, this giant, white beautiful exotic beast without a leash. One person in each group inevitably tried to pet me, but then went running the minute I turned my attention to them. The groups roared in laughter. It was magical. I’m in the vacation photo albums of several visitors, I know it.
We’d then get to the beach where I would fetch whatever she was throwing into the water 700 times or more. I would dominate any playmates. While not fast, I was rough. And, often, rough to the point that several other dog owners would talk sternly to my lady friend and we would move on to other dogs until their owner allowed us to romp like the real, tough, athletic dogs that we were.
My lady never really spoke to me. At a certain time in my life, after the crazy puppy years (there were many), we had this unspoken bond. I would look at her and she would look at me and I knew whether it was time to leave, if I should go wash off in the water one last time, if I should stop doing something: whatever it was I knew.
This was right before we moved west together. It’s funny, because at 7 years old she thought I was, if not old, but older and limited as to what I could do. This was when I was at my best, actually. With dedicated roommates and focus on long hikes or walks, I grew to my strongest and fittest. I applied the mountain goat attributes to real boulders and cliffs rather than concrete. I swam in swift rivers, hiked steadily and navigated snow over my chest like a champ. I could not run next to a bike, but that’s a whole other story.
I would teeter on top of the tool box of a friend’s pick-up, headed down the highway, happy with my face in the wind and giving my lady friend a heart attack. She has always been nervous about me, the older I get. Always fearful. If I thought she was protective then, that was nothing compared to now.
Now, she looks on every single time I step down any stairs and clasps her hands waiting for me to fall. Walks are slow and she congratulates me for going around the block. My man friend yells “Yeah!” all the time to cheer me on, to celebrate my existence. I have a plush bed that I have reluctantly adopted, mostly only after everyone else has gone to bed and they cannot see. When they find me on it, there is a lot of petting and excitement. Hooray, Walter!
The other day Stan was thrown a frisbee and I completely forgot that I’m 100 years old and I blasted off, only to fall flat on my belly after one step. We were at a neighbors house yesterday and Stan and this other young dog were romping and wrestling. I jumped in, with the fury of a protective older brother, and got knocked down immediately. And, when Stan starts barking in the house because some neighbor kids have trespassed into his domain, I bark along with him as back-up. This winter I climbed towers of snow, only to one time fall and need help to get back up on my feet.
I don’t look old, being all white. Well, that is, I don’t look old until I start walking. I’m always surprised when I approach people and they say to my lady “Oh, boy, wow, how old is he?” I’m not old in my mind. My spirit will always be that of a mountain goat. I’m always going to be that exotic white beast who captures the interest of strangers. I will always bring about admiration and awe.
And, in terms of the unspoken bond with my lady, the woman who brought me to this magical place that got me healthy, fit, happy and free, we will always have that silent connection. After all, I cannot hear what she’s saying anyway.