Wednesday, January 11, 2012

An Old Dog in January

The almost always colorful James Lileks writes in Wednesday's Bleat about his morose day. I can relate to what he's saying - the moroseness, the paternal anxiety, the progressively enfeebled dog. I get it.

January in Ohio is no fun either. The days are gray, and even when the air isn't frigid, there's a bite in the wind. We've pretty much avoided (as if we had anything to do with it!) snow so far this winter, but that's supposed to change soon. I can only hope that the new tires on my Focus help it handle a little more deftly than a toboggan, which is what it was like driving in snow last year.

Adding to the gaiety of the month is the great sugar crash of the holidays and knowing that the next holiday doesn't come round until April (unless you're a government worker), and that's Good Friday. There's not a whole lot of celebrating going on that day - the celebration is two days later on Easter Sunday. Until then, it's a long slog of five-day work weeks, sitting hour upon hour in front of my computer in my gray cubicle in a brick building under a gray Ohio sky.

Lileks writes of how he starts to fear the worst when his daughter's bus is twenty minutes late. She is his only child, so maybe his anxiety is heightened by the fact that he doesn't have any spares. On the other hand, with more children, maybe I get that many more opportunities to let my fears gnaw at me. Mostly though, my fears lock onto my dear wife, who drives our van like it's a formula race car (I exaggerate, but only a little). She has an excellent driving record, but whenever she's late in arriving somewhere or driving in bad whether, the spectre of horror enters my imagination. What would I do if I had to raise these kids without her? The power of sin is strong in me - even when I'm worrying about the safety of a loved one, I somehow manage to make it all about me. So I say a prayer and try, in vain, to put it out of my mind.

Finally, there is the dog. Toby is not the close friend and collaborator that Jasper is to Mr. Lileks. Yet I am quite fond of him, and it pains me to see him struggle with the steps and the linoleum. When we go out, he has to negotiate a step down from the kitchen to the mud room. He long ago lost the ability to make the transition with grace. Now, he has to start his run a step or two away, and if anything enters his trajectory, he's running into it head first. He's plowed into my legs full-bore many times after I've inadvertently stepped into his path.

We have gates on the deck to keep the dogs (we have two) from accidentally (accidentally to us, intentionally to them) getting out and running loose around the neighborhood. When they need to relieve themselves, we hook a cable to the collar and let them off the deck individually, then come back later to unhook the cable and let them back onto the deck. The deck has two steps down to the ground. Yesterday, when I went to bring Toby in, he was waiting for me on the second step. I opened the gate, and he tried unsuccessfully to climb the one step to the deck. He had to go back down to the ground, two paces back, and make a run at it.

It makes me wonder how many years the old dog has left in him.

I know there will be sunny days between today and Good Friday, but this week it's all gray. And I know that my wife and kids have guardian angels aplenty, such that the probability of serious incident is small. And I know that the life span of a lab mutt is about twelve years, and Toby is pushing eleven. Still, these things eat at a person. That much, at least, I know that I have in common with James Lileks.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Let's stress the words---"She has an excellent driving record!" :)