Saturday, January 22, 2011


That time of year is here again. It is the middle of the winter, which is depressing under the best of circumstances – I, like my dogs, am a day person, and love long hours of sunlight.  Even though the weather here is not severe as in many other countries, and the days are not nearly as short as in northern Europe and such, (I find it hard to imagine living in a place where there are about 20 minutes of daylight per day), it still seems to be getting dark just when I am getting started doing something.  The dogs start their day at about 5 in the morning, since for them there have been quite enough hours of sleep in the dark, and now it is time to run and bark.  But it is still pitch black out, and will be for another two hours!  I want to stay in bed!  Habibi, get your nose out of my face, it’s too early!

What is worse, though, and what I would really like to ignore about this time of year – it is birthday time.

Dogs don’t care about birthdays, and don’t think about getting old.  As far as they are concerned, if you function, it doesn’t matter what your age is.  Turning gray is irrelevant, and if there are wrinkles, they don’t show through the hair.  Habibi’s great, great grandfather, Shachmat, my daughter’s personal pet and a very well known dog in his day, died at about 16, and until a few months beforehand, when he did start feeling his age and having trouble getting around, he held on to his position as king of the house dogs, and none of the others dreamed of telling him that he was too old for that.

Shachmat at 13 years of age

I have a very well developed internal image of myself.  I am not so delusional as to believe that I still look like I did at 25, but my internal self says I certainly must be a well preserved 45?  The passing of time is all in the mind, isn’t it? 

I have learned from the dogs not to look in the mirror.  For them, this image is an illusion – there is no sound, no smell, no touch, so that image that may appear to be a dog is obviously nothing and doesn’t have to be considered.  I know that what I see in the mirror, when I do happen to glance that way, is also an illusion – I don’t really look like that...


Once in a while I meet  friends that I have not seen for a long time, and I am quite amazed at how they look.  Wrinkles!  Bifocals!  Knobby hands!  They have gotten older!  How did that happen???  I see them in my mind as they were when I first got to know them years ago.  And then I hear this tiny voice in the back of my mind saying, “You know, you look that way to them…”  No way!  Not possible!

It works the other way also – when I meet a friend that really looks good, and young for his age, that little voice is saying, “I hope you look that good too!”

But one thing it is impossible to escape from is photographs.  I hate having my photo taken. I am very happy to have people photograph my dogs, but please, just focus on them!  I don’t mind at all having my head cut off!

When, unfortunately, I do find myself in the photo, it is very painful. That image does not look at all like the one in my imagination!  Do I really look like that? It can’t be me!

This week I was interviewed as part of a TV program that is being prepared about dogs.  There was no way to escape from the camera.  But since it was about dogs, some of the dogs were sitting there with me, and I tried my best to stay hidden behind them while encouraging them to sit on my lap, dodging the cameraman while he tried to dodge the dogs.  Wonder how that is going to come out…

It is not only a matter of looks.  Despite all my efforts to stay fit, I have discovered that I have muscles and joints which never existed when I was younger, and which don’t like to get out of bed in the morning and certainly don’t enjoy going up and down stairs – and stairs is something I have plenty of here.  

But then I look at the older dogs in the pack here, who love to run with the young ones.  When you look closely, they are not quite as fast and as agile, but they don’t sit and think about it – they run, as best they can, and enjoy being able to do what they still can do. They never think about how much better they looked in their younger days, or how it has become difficult to leap and bound up the hillside, they just do it.  And life is great!

Habibi doesn’t care about the wrinkles and the gray hair, he can see the young soul inside, and that is who he loves.

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