It occurred to me the other day that Ranger, my sweet Labrador Retriever, is aging. I guess I didn’t think of it earlier because he’s been with us for only two years. I remember the day we rescued him. They said he was 5 years old. He was a big boy at 95 pounds, and he was tall. Despite the weight, he looked formidable rather than rotund.
As Ranger’s previous owner walked away, Ranger strained at the leash that held him. He was panting heavily. There was a panicked look in his eyes. With a firm tug on the leash, I led Ranger to our car. He followed willingly, though a little dejected at being left behind. We coaxed him in the back of our SUV, and brought him home. He was the newest addition to our family.
In the days that followed, we took him on countless walks. We were a familiar sight in the neighborhood-– woman pushing a stroller with a big black Lab at her side. His coat took on a glossy sheen, and it was remarkable to me that he did not smell. The old forlorn look in eyes faded to one of content as he snoozed in a patch of sunlight. The days of sleeping on the cold ground were gone; Ranger was an inside dog now. He had his own fluffy Costco bed.
The other day, I saw Ranger curled up in front of the fire, and I noticed the grey on the underside of his muzzle. I inched closer to stroke his blunt nose and I saw one whisker that was totally white. Ranger slowly opened his eyes. They seemed older and wiser. But this is not the only thing I notice. His steps are slower. He is more inclined to take a nap than go for a walk. Biscuits take more time to finish. He carefully takes them into his mouth; his body crouches down as he bites.
My realization caused me some dread. Our time together has not been long, and I admit that I do not care to think about my dog settling into old age. It pains me to think that a day will come when this gentle giant will not follow me from room to room as I pick up toys that my little boy has dropped. I know all his favorite relaxation spots. There’s the red carpet next to the kitchen floor. He also likes the space right in the middle of the hallway. From this angle he can see the living room, the den and my son’s bedroom. He does not like to miss our nighttime ritual of rocking and reading the bedtime stories.
I regret that I did not know Ranger as a puppy. I can imagine a younger Lab all roly-poly and wiggly, but it is enough that I know Ranger as he is now and we’ll make the most of our time together.