Iíve always prescribed to that old Jewish proverb that states "Life begins when the kids leave home and the dog dies."
     Not that Iím in any hurry for my life to begin. The kids left home a couple of years ago, but our dog, Lucy, is still with us. Sheís a 12 year old black pug, which is 84 in dog years, but she acts and feels as though sheís no older than 96.
     In other words, "spry" is probably not the word to describe her. A better choice might be "catatonic."
     She might as well be a cat, for that matter. She sleeps most of the day, never budging from her perch on the sofa, except when itís time to eat. Then she perks up a bit, showing her old form as she gobbles down her food. Then itís back to sleep.
     This all came to a head the other day when we were leaving town for a week and had to find someone to care for Lucy. My wife informed me that one of her dog-walking friends would take care of Lucy for only $40 per day.
     "Are you kidding?" I complained, not for the first time. "Thatís almost $300 for the week!! Lucyís only awake for about an hour a day!"
     "She has to walk her twice a day," countered my wife. "And itís a deal. Some places charge $75 per day."
      "Thatís ridiculous. Sheís already walking her own dog, so it's not like it's extra work. And itís not like Lucyís going to run off and sheíll have to chase her down. She barely moves."
      My wife looked over at the couch, where Lucy was snoring away, her over-sized tongue drooping onto the fabric, leaving a lovely saliva stain. "Shhhh. Sheíll hear you."
      We both knew Lucy was almost completely deaf, but my wife didnít like to acknowledge it. I knew it when she stopped responding to the words "food" and "treat." She had always had selective hearing ("come" was never her favorite) but she always heard "food" and "treat."
      No longer. Now she was in her golden years, and her body was falling apart. She could still see pretty well, but her arthritis was getting the best of her. I had to help her down from the couch every morning, because an early-morning jump could turn ugly.
      Actually, she kind of reminded me of someone, especially in the morning. So I kind of liked the fact my wife was so compassionate over Lucy. It could bode well for my future.
      As I continued my complaining over the exorbitant fees to care for a dog that never moved, Lucy woke up and looked at us, her mouth closed but her tongue still hanging to the side with at least three inches showing. My wife went over to the couch and cradled her.
     "Are you awake, my beautiful girl?" she asked the dog who couldnít hear a thing. "Youíre such a pretty girl, arenít you? Youíre the prettiest girl Iíve ever seen!!!"
     I tried to picture her talking to me that way when Iím 84. I didnít see it happening. She certainly never talked to me that way now. In fact, quite often she had a very different tone in her voice when talking to me.
     "TREAT ME LIKE A DOG!!!" I would politely ask when her tone got out of hand. But she never did. That tone was reserved for Lucy.
     After she finished massaging Lucyís ego, she turned back to me and let me know, for the umpteenth time, that Lucy would be our last dog because I wasnít compassionate enough to care for animals.
     "I love Lucy," I declared for the umpteenth time. "I just donít see why we should pay $40 a day for someone to watch her sleep."
     "Because thatís what it costs," she replied, with no trace of a sing-song voice. "Get over it."
     I looked over at Lucy on the couch as she struggled to her feet. Her eyes were tired, gray hairs were popping up everywhere, her pug nose was running slightly, and her tongue was hanging past her crumpled chin.
    I walked over and lifted her gently off the couch and onto the floor. I told my wife I would happily pay the $40 a day to care for our beautiful dog.
    "Of course you will," she replied, and then softened a bit. "And Iíll try and treat you more like a dog."
     Thatís all I ask.


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