When we got back from vacation I realized Django is old. I’m afraid to say that because I don’t want to look like I’m projecting. I can’t help it. I’m turning 50 and she’s turning 12. I didn’t plan it that way, it’s just what happened. So coming back and hearing that all the warnings and nightmare scenarios I’d given Kelso and Karl, “she goes ballistic at skateboards, she will attack toddlers on scooters, she intensely hates a white dog named Princess,” came to nothing, I had to wonder: Had I prepared them for a younger Django? Had I written up two full pages of instructions on leash-gripping and treat distractions for a dog that no longer exists?
She looked so old on our first walk this morning. It was hot here, full of humidity which I’d forgotten about after our days in northern Michigan. There, the heat was dry and breezy, soft across your skin. Here it pushes heavy and intractable. We walked down Sunnyside. Django did her business and then, when Dave turned into the alley to toss it out, stopped dead in her tracks. Paws pushed against the pavement, head down, eyes staring up under half-closed lids. “She’s not even going to make it around the block,” I said despondently. Kelso and Karl probably wondered why my instructions said “three walks a day, at least” when clearly all she can manage is a trip around the yard. “She wants her ball,” said Dave.
I looked again. We were standing near the head of the alley, the spot where we usually throw a tennis ball if no one’s around. Granted, she wasn’t actually in the alley, so she wouldn’t be able to see the ball if I threw it. Perhaps she’s too old to remember she needs to be able to see. Anyway, I threw the ball and she tore around the corner. She chased it down, brought it back, and got her treat.
Because of the heat, I only threw it a few times. I worry about her collapsing. In Michigan, Ruby said that after 50 you start second-guessing every ailment, every ache. You think, “Is this it?” she said patting her chest. But a day later, on her husband Roy’s 49th birthday which we celebrated with clown noses and a horrible clown statue and “Send in the Clowns” playing on Tara’s iPad and a clown sundae created by the waitstaff, Roy said age is nothing, not even worth thinking about. To some guy who said he’s not really 49 because he’s now in his 50th year he said, “Whatever.”
We continued walking east, until Django pulled south to go to Hanover Park. That’s what Kelso and Karl called Horner Park accidentally, and I like it. It sounds prettier, more European. No one really cares what a park is called, as long as you know how to get there. It always surprises me, how many small freedoms are ours for the taking.