Ode to an Aging Dog
by Tyler Sjostrom
Hey, buddy. Who’s a good boy? You’re a good boy.
The other day, we were watching Animal Planet — your favorite channel, naturally — and there was one of those giant tortoises on the screen. The narrator revealed that they can live to be something like 150 years old, and I looked at you, with your creaky joints and stinky breath. I patted your head, and you blinked your increasingly cloudy eyes. “Not fair,” I said.
Now, I know that there’s a strong likelihood that you’ll never read this, because you’re a dog. But before time marches onward with ageless joints toward our eventual farewell, I thought we should have a chat. An appreciation. A toast.
Like so many good boys and girls before you, the day you moved in was the day we became a family. Before the fateful journey where we returned with a crate-bound ankle biter, your mom and I were just a couple of kids figuring things out. Immediately, our relationship had unavoidable subtext: Are they serious? Well, they do have a dog together.
History has shown that getting a pet can make or break a couple; after all, if a person can’t love a dog, then what likelihood is there that they’d ever properly love another human? In much the same way that working in the service industry should be a prerequisite for any position of power, good luck to anyone whose first helpless roommate has a human face.
For your mom and me, you were just what we needed to prod us toward a more permanent future. We both loved you and loved taking care of you, and we loved doing that together. We could proudly take you everywhere, and we really did just that — on road trips, on boats, to restaurants. You always behaved, and we have never been anything but proud to show you off. Your valedictory graduation from puppy class was possibly the crowning achievement of my first 30 years.
From the start, and in all the years since, you followed me everywhere — towards new homes, new jobs, and new pets. And eventually, memorably, you followed me down the aisle when I married your mom. There has never been a friendlier ring bearer.
And that brings us to today.
In the last year or so, you’ve gone from being an uncertain, skeptical presence in our toddler son’s life to being the second thing he asks about every morning, right after Blippi. (Note to prospective parents: Never let your child discover Blippi.) Our infant son doesn’t really know you yet, but he will. And likely, you will be the first thing our boys truly love that they have to let go of.
But that day isn’t today, and that’s why I’m glad to make you a promise. In return for all the great years you’ve given us so far, I can promise you that your mom and I will make your remaining years as great as possible. You always have a spot on the bed and on the couch and by my feet when I’m working. We’ll do dog parks and pup cups and all the Chuck-it you can handle. You made us a family when we brought you home, and you’ll break our hearts when you leave us.
I can’t give you 150 years. I can’t even promise you five. But I can make your remaining years the best you’ve had yet.
Because who’s a good boy? You’re a good boy. A very good boy.
I forgot to tell you how much I appreciated your March 2021 article, Mr. Skogstad…