The Importance of 676 to Your Dog
It's a beautiful day; don't let it get away.
I stumbled upon this post, written in February of 2016, while perusing my old site. Obviously, a lot has changed since I wrote it. Somehow it seems even more pertinent today than when I wrote it all those years ago.
This time of year can kinda suck if you have asthma. Which I do. I’ve got an upper respiratory infection on top of it. I’m miserable. I feel like death warmed over.
Then I realized that I was being stupid. The temperature is 53 degrees – warm for Cleveland (or the Arctic Tundra, but I repeat myself). The sun is shining. It’s an okay day for hiking, or at least going for a short walk with my best friend. And here I was squandering it feeling sorry for myself, which is what I’ve been doing or the past 2 days.
Yes I’m legitimately sick. But that doesn’t negate my dogs’ need for activity.
I’ve been cutting corners and exercising the easy ways, using the treadmill for Orion, and a backpack plus some minor agility for Sparta, but nothing really beats a good walk. Sunshine only adds to the benefit. It was time for me to suck it up and go outside. But I still don’t want to.
Then I saw an update in the mail from my dog’s vet, reminding me that Sparta was due for her rabies shot. I looked through her medical records to verify, and stumbled across something that I’d forgotten: Sparta is 7 years old.
Now, that’s not such a big deal. She’s not old (yet), but it did make me stop and reflect. Most dogs live to be roughly 13 years old. That equals only 676 weekends. So far she’s almost exactly halfway through that allotment. So technically speaking, she only has 338 weekends left with me. That means, at the very most, we are down to 169 weekends to drive that hour down to Bow Wow Beach, so I can watch her swim. We only have so many hikes left together. Only so many more times she can jump into the backseat of my car without help. And there I was, squandering this time because I have a cold.
Sometimes we think of dogs in human terms, including how much time we’re given together. At 39 years my young(ish) age, I still have a lot of time left. We tend to include our dogs in that time because we assume that they’ll always be there. But there is a set amount of time with them. Perhaps 676 seems like a lot of weekends to romp with with your dogs. Enough time to do do anything you want. But I’ve already used up half of those with Sparta.
It made me think. I train so many dogs in a week, sometimes it felt that my own dogs were always last on the list for my attention. It made me, well…
So I took my dogs for a walk. Not far. Just far enough to change my perspective. Which was far enough to make me want to hike even farther. I’m not going to waste today anymore.
****** As you may already know, I didn't quite have that much time left with Sparta. She left us this last winter to join the others we have lost across the rainbow bridge, at the age of 12. Her best friend in our house, our cat, Echo, left us to join her on the journey not even a month later.
Orion is now our senior, at almost 11 years old. Ellis, my new addition, is a sprightly 2.5 years old, but I'm never going to assume I have enough time with them that time is no longer precious.
So now I take that walk that I didn't want to (and feel better for it). I play a few rounds of fetch with Ellis (even though I have so many other things I need to get done). As my wise grandmother, who raised 7 children of her own, told me once:
Your kids won't remember if your house was clean, but they will always remember that you always had the time to read a book to them.
I don't remember if Grandma Parobechek's house was clean, but I do remember she always had time for me, along with her 21 other grandchildren.
Kerry Stack Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio