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  • Writer's pictureDan FitzPatrick

Canine in the Middle

Logan and I have come to notice that, just about this time every year, the humans in our family start thinking back on what had happened in their lives since the last time they had performed that exercise.  They tend to have mixed emotions about what they recall, and make all sorts of confident noise about what they are going to do differently, or more of, in the next number of coming months.  Amusingly, they tend to completely forget their plans shortly thereafter, and we have yet to hear them mentioned in the following annual self-examination.


For me, the recent past has been one of change.  In the middle of the warm season, our family welcomed a new puppy, Bear, who has turned my world upside down.  I had long become accustomed to my position as junior dog, content to follow and spend quiet time with Logan, tending to his needs as he gradually became less agile and mobile, serving sometimes as his eyes and ears when sight and hearing failed him.  I was content with my lot, without ambition for anything else.


Then Bear arrived.  Suddenly, I had to contend with a bouncing, jumping, nipping, feisty little version of what I assume (and Logan has assured me) I was in my youth.  Quickly growing and constantly ravenous, I found myself in competition for food and attention with this little black-and-white ball of energetic fur.  Gone were the days when I could eat sparingly in the morning, confidently leaving some food in my bowl for a later, leisurely snack in the afternoon. Now, I have to keep a close eye on Bear and eat as much as I can as quickly as I can before he finishes the meal in his bowl and trots expectantly towards mine.


And the toys!  Ever since I was a puppy myself, I have loved playing with toys; it is something I never grew out of, nor ever wanted to.  Not surprisingly, Bear loves playing with toys as well; the thing is, he always wants to play with whatever toy I happen to be playing with.  Even when we are presented with separate examples of the same toy, he will want the one I have, and when I leave that to him and pick up the other toy, he wants that one instead!


I shared my frustrations with Logan.  He was not sympathetic.  He recounted many instances when in my youth I treated him the same way.


“Cadbury, it is time that we had a talk.  I am old, much older than is usual for our breed.  You know as well as I do that I can not be with you here forever, and maybe not even for much longer.  It is now your turn to take up the position of older dog for Bear, to teach him what I have taught you, and possibly even more.  This is as nature intends it to be, and in that sense, it is right and good.”


“You now must be his mentor, helping him to make sense of this world and grow to be the dog he can become – a dog, perhaps, as thoughtful and generous of spirit as you yourself are.  Pass on to him whatever I have taught you which you have found to be of value.  Help him to be the kind of faithful companion to our humans that you and I have striven to be.  Who knows, there may come a time when you have this exact conversation with Bear as he is similarly vexed by a smaller version of himself!”


“I do not think I am yet ready to play that role,” I answered.  “I did not know to prepare for it and would like more time.”


“Life does not work that way,” Logan replied.  “When necessary, we find the strength, and patience, and wisdom we need to get the job done, to keep moving forward.  You and I have had many long talks together, the substance of which will remain in your memory, waiting to be recalled at precisely the right moment.  Trust yourself.”


I had a lot to think about, so I retired to my favorite thinking spot under a big tree on a slight rise in the yard outside our human family’ s house.  I settled down to begin my reverie, but just as I did, Bear came sprinting up to me, jumped on my back, nipped at my ear, wordlessly demanding that I play with him.  “Oh well,” I thought, “time to get to work.”

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