There's something about old dogs that is so brave and sweet. I always let out an involuntary "Awww" when I see a white-faced dog with a hitchy gait plugging along on a leash, determined to keep up with his master. My dear Goldie dog's age is a mystery, since I got her at the county animal shelter, but if the paperwork they had was correct, she is now 15 years old.
It shows. Her face is completely white and her hearing is shot and she is plagued by an ever-increasing army of lumps and cysts. I think her vision is compromised, too, since she has run into things a couple times in the past month.
Her back legs are getting stiff and I sometimes see one give out a little when she is on uneven turf or on the slippery floor.
But she is brave and big-hearted and faces each day with delight and a sense of adventure, as dogs do. I took Friday off and wanted to just spend the day hanging out with her, especially since I know our time together is growing short.
I checked the tide chart and the lowest tide was at noon. We drove out to our favorite lonely beach, far away from cars and roads and people. Sometimes there are other people with dogs there, and I don't like to let her off leash then, but Friday we got lucky and it was just her and me and a mile of smooth, perfect sand.
There was a warm breeze, blue skies, small little waves lapping over, the Channel Islands looking so clear and close. It was almost indecent, really, in the "dead of winter." She dug some holes, hunting along the way, getting filthy dirty.
When we got to the beach, I let her off the leash for the first time in over a year. Last year I couldn't - the sand never came back to the beach after the winter storms, so the beach was just cobbles, rocky and unrunnable.
She first raced out into the water up to her shoulders, then came out to the shallows and lay her belly on the cool wet sand for just a few seconds before she sprang off to chase seagulls. She is convinced she can catch them - and she did, once - so they race down the beach, the seagulls skimming over the breakers and Goldie with her tongue flapping out her mouth, in hot pursuit.
Even though she is about half as fast as she used to be, she doesn't seem to mind. She will run as long as she has strength to run, as fast as her legs will carry her.
Sometimes Goldie stops to stand in the cold water, her sides heaving, head bobbing up and down from the effort of breathing, but as soon as she catches her breath, she is off again.
I had to wade out in the water to capture her when she was taking one of these mini-breaks, because I knew she had had enough of running, even if she didn't realize it.
Last night her shoulders were sore and she moved around on stiff legs, considering for a minute before she heaved herself up on to the couch. Yet today when walk time came, she was ready to go, waiting for me out by the gate.