Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Older Dog Wisdom: Grace 3 - Past Prime

Grace is the extrovert of the family. She loves people. Let me be more precise, she loves being the center of attention. There have only been a couple of people who she didn’t like. One was a vet who had fast hands and no bed-side manner, and misdiagnosed the cancer that caused her toe to be amputated. The other was a rude plumber who, as it turns out, was incompetent. Grace had been right to not like both those men.
We were out for our walk one morning recently. We were in the park by 6:00 am (and it was already 80 degrees and humid). We passed by a dog we’d never seen before and its owner. Then there was another walker, a woman. Grace was doing her best to charm the woman. Her tail was going a mile a minute. She was at her most charming. The woman, however, was apparently immune to Grace’s charms. The woman ignored her.
Grace isn’t used to being ignored. It had all begun when she was a puppy. She was as cute as the day is long. Wherever we went, people would come to her oohing and ahhing over how cute she was. Everyone, it seemed, wanted to rub her tiny soft ears, caress her silky-soft coat, and watch the tiny tail wagging so fast that it appeared that it could make her fly. This adoration continued. Now, however, the adoration is fading. 
Grace is crushed. She looked at me with disbelief in her big brown eyes. When we got home, I sat down and she crawled up into the chair with me. She looked positively depressed.
I had to explain to her that in this society being young is more important than the wisdom that elders have. I explained to her that humans ignore their elders, and make them feel like they don’t exist. Unlike the Chinese, for instance, who revere their elders, we Americans look away from our elderly. I explained that as she ages (she’s now 11) and due to no fault of her own, she, too, will be ignored. There will always be a puppy who, while no cuter than she is, it will, nevertheless, have the upper hand because of its age. 
It’s not fair, Grace told me. 
No, it’s not fair. But it is what it is.
Well, shame on anyone who believes that age should factor into whether I’m the cutest.
Yes, shame on us, I replied.
She felt a little better, but I could tell, she wasn’t ready to give up her title of the cutest Cocker Spaniel ever.
Lesson Learned
It is a shame to ignore an elderly person. Instead, when you see an elder - be it a human or a dog - give a smile and say hello. You will have made that person’s day because you didn’t treat her like she didn’t exist. The same can be true of dogs. They love the attention and pick up from your voice and pets that you think they’re special enough not to ignore.

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