a variation of this was first seen in Perspectives, the AKC Delegate newsletter
Standard advice as we age is to get a dog or cat for company. We’re told they can provide unconditional love and comfort. Studies show owning a pet can help protect against loneliness and depression. More of those studies tell us pet owning people on Medicare make fewer visits to the (human) doctor. Dogs offer a wealth of benefits to the mature amongst us. Having a dog as a companion could add years to your lives and play a significant role in surviving heart attacks.
We know all that, don’t we? Most of us are reading with one hand on the head of our canine companion, or possibly with our lap full of demanding dog. We’ve had dogs for decades, we’ve whelped them, raised them, trained them, shown them, watched them age and held them for that last trip to the vet. We’re now down to the last one or two dogs, keeping us company as our lives slow down.
Not why do we have a dog or dogs with us. Why do we slow down? Barring medical issues why do we succumb to the idea that we are older therefore we can’t do anything too strenuous. Or maybe we’re too heavy, too weak, too…whatever.
We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.
George Bernard Shaw
Maybe we think we can’t compete with the young, athletic, up and coming people in our breed, or sport. Okay at some point we might not be able to keep up with them in Conformation. But what about other dog sports? Companion Events, Performance Events…the list grows every year of what we can do with our dogs. And in these events, we can compete against ourselves.
Rather than go to a gym or sign up for treadmill punishment, why not try, say, Agility? What, you don’t have a Border Collie, an Australian Shepherd, a Malinois? Take an afternoon and check out the trials. You’ll see every breed imaginable, and some mixed breeds, following their people’s guidance around obstacles (or making up their own courses). You’ll also see a wealth of silver…hair, that is. Not everyone is young and svelte! Agility requires time invested in training, and here comes the stealth part.
See, you don’t actually need to compete. You can take lessons, practice at home, give yourself and your dog a good workout and never chase another ribbon. If you convince a friend you need their company then both of you will benefit. Or you can make friends, good friends, at the training center. Eventually you might decide you want to leave your safe area and attempt a trial. Here’s the fun part…you don’t have to win to reap the rewards! You can have just as much fun with your dog, just as much frustration and confusion, and never qualify. Along the way you’ve gotten up off the sofa, out of the car, and pushed your heart rate to a healthy number. Soon you won’t have time to check out that new television series, you’ll be signing up for a seminar, helping out at a trial, working on a better approach to the obstacles.
Somewhere along the way you realize you’re sleeping better, waking up earlier, and looking forward to what the day will bring. You’ve fooled yourself into being healthier, and given your dog a new lease on his canine life. And you can do the same for your friend…why should you be the only one having so much fun?
I’m up earlier than usual, finishing this in the predawn. Soon I’ll be heading out with my little red girl, chasing that elusive green ribbon. Even better, sharing my day with the friends I’ve made and new friends I’ll meet.
Keep moving, moving, moving. But take a moment to hug your friends, tell them you love them, that you’re thinking of them. We never know when it’s going to be the last chance.