Old Dogs, New Tricks


There are few things in life sadder than watching your canine kids get old. Somehow we were convinced that with our guys it wouldn’t happen – they would live forever. Regrettably, time seems to wait for no-one.

When Gryphon was a puppy he required 3 hours of exercise a day. When I say “required”, I mean he was pretty much impossible to live with if he didn’t get it. The first year we walked him incessantly and were relieved when finally he was old enough (and his recall was good enough) that we could get away with taking him mountain biking instead. He never really seemed to get truly tired, but 2 -3 hours of solid running in the woods with a swim here or there took the edge off and made him civil.

Hunter came as a 3 year-old rescue. We marveled at his similarities to a race horse. Given a wide open space he would stretch out to double his standing length and run so fast that he went from pointer to point in a matter of seconds. I could watch him run for hours. Gryphon, who is built more like a farm tractor than a race horse, was without-a-doubt pissed off at Hunter’s speed, and gave him frequent playful scoldings for his running antics. Hunter dealt with this by taking to the woods instead, running no less quickly through brush and thick forest. I wondered how he didn’t lose an eye.

We took our dogs hiking, swimming, biking, skiing, snowshoeing. Preparing for adventure races we’d spend the day in the woods with a compass, a snack and two crazy canines who barked at us every time we dared stop for a break. Realizing how happy they were every time we took them on an adventure¬† made us smile from the inside out. It was obvious that they were smiling too.

A couple of years ago Gryphon and Hunter both started getting lumpy. I took them to the vet who insisted that it was fairly normal for dogs of their age. “Watch out for changes,” she advised, “and if they seem to bother them we’ll take them off.” This was the first real sign of aging. We had one warty lump removed from Gryphon because he was chewing it, but so far the others haven’t caused any trouble.

The past several months, however, the changes have been more obvious. Gryphon turned 13 the first week of September and Hunter, we guesstimate, is now 12. That’s getting up there for big dogs. They both still love to run and go on adventures, but Gryphon now takes days instead of hours before he wants to go again. Hunter is slowing down too, although he’s not quite willing to admit it yet,

Last week we began discussions about adding another dog to our family. A dog who could learn from our favourite fur kids while they’re still happy and healthy. Of course in the back of our mind is the obvious – we want a new puppy because someday Gryphon and Hunter won’t be here anymore. It feels like cheating, in a way¬† – like we’re replacing our children. I know, however, that we’re not – there could never be a replacement for those two goofballs. A new puppy will be just that – a new goofball to add to the mix. And I can still hope that Hunter and Gryphon are going to be around to enjoy their new brother for a long time to come.

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2 thoughts on “Old Dogs, New Tricks

  1. glad you are thinking about adding another one to the brood. After our “real” kids left as well as the critters didn’t have the heart to replace them. Too painful.

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