Dog Years: Gifts of Old Age in Tucson, AZ

I had a moment of pause the other morning when I went to feed the dogs their breakfast. I rattled the dog kibble in their bowls.

Rafe, the Clumber Spaniel

It was still early morning and Scout, the female wirehaired pointer, and her yellow lab confederate, Drake, were both Johnny on the spot.  Our geriatric male Clumber spaniel, however, was nowhere to be seen. I withheld their breakfast by putting up their bowls and went searching for Rafe. Mom was still in bed, and I found Mr. Rafe melted into the dog bed on the floor next to her.

Let me just say that Rafe has never been one to be late to a meal, and his position of repose struck me as peculiar.  From the doorway, I rattled his food bowl, quietly so as not to wake up mom.  He didn’t respond.  I entered the room and stood above him to look more closely at his chest, as it occurred to me that he might not be breathing.  He picked up on my approach, however, and slowly roused from a deep sleep.   As he raised his head, he realized he was late for breakfast. It appeared that the reports of his demise had been greatly exaggerated, to quote Mark Twain.  With his enthusiastic geriatric single speed, he struggled up from the bed and followed me to the kitchen where the other two were waiting for the provisions to be allocated.

Let me share with you what Rafe has been up to during his alleged dotage. Around our house he has, of late, been characterized as the Mad Bomber.  Every morning, I let the dogs out to run. It’s a structured affair, starting with stepping through the door. The other two, Drake and Scout, wait by the door for their name to be said, permission granted to start the run. Rafe also lines up, but doesn’t wait for any pronouncements- with age comes privilege after all.  He barges through and begins his leisurely, perhaps described by others as geriatric, wanderings about the property.  There was a time when he waited patiently besides the others, but that time has passed.

Although leisurely, his meanderings have taken on a more deliberate focus.  He looks for the exact right spot and with unerring accuracy delivers a bomb pile at the spot where I am going to work that morning.  If I’m not planning any outdoor work that day, then the deposit is often found by the driver’s side door of my truck-right where my feet will step as I open the door to get in.  He delivers his payload and then casually returns to the inside of the house to lie in the cool by mom.  If mom does a walk-around he will accompany her and then retire to the indoors with her.

I am sensing a message in these deliveries and I ponder the significance of it.  I am aware that there is a clairvoyant component to his selection of the target sites.

Such was the case with the trailer tire. Prior to my knowing that a tire needed attention, I released the other two dogs and exited the house myself. Rafe at that point was already returning from the  trailer area prancing as if returning to base after having completed his mission.  Things have come to the point that I now search for his bomb site for psychic assistance and information about where or what I need to focus on first that morning.

I walked to the trailer area seeking evidence of his visit.  I saw nothing, but then noticed that the trailer needed attention.  I went to gather a jack and some jack stands to get the tire off the ground.  As I prepared to sit down to place the jack and jack stands, I finally spotted where Rafe had done his turnaround.  It was in the exact spot where I needed to plant my rear end to get the lugnuts off of the tire. A similar placement to where my feet go when I step up into the cab of the truck.  I very nearly sat on his cleverly placed IED.

This sort of thing is now happening consistently. I ponder the possibility that with increased age he is expanding from being a mere bomber to acts of deliberate sabotage.  His attempt to lure unsuspecting others (well, me, anyways) within range of his clever placements.  With age comes stealth and treachery and Rafe, despite the physical limitations of age, is clearly in top form and bringing his best game to the field.  I will continue to monitor his activities.

Meanwhile, please be sure to reach out with any dog related or dog training related questions at 520-465-3460. I would love to speak with you and help with your dog concerns in whatever way I can. Please check out the website:  FreeRangeDogs and listen to the podcast.  Until then, enjoy your best life living with dogs!