For years I've marveled at how energetic and rambunctious my dog, Pepper, is for her age (she just turned 12 at the start of May) and doubted that she'd ever show signs of getting old. This past Christmas Pepper was still bounding over snow drifts and racing to be first in line as our family roamed the woods in search of a Christmas tree. But since coming back home I've noticed a change in Pepper. All her movements are a lot slower than usual and she occasionally limps. I had tried to ignore the telltale signs of Pepper's advancing age until Sunday, when Bryn and I took her for a walk to the creek near our house.
The walk started out normally with Pep happily and obediently trotting by my side as we followed Bryn, riding her bike, down the road. But before we were even halfway to Mission Creek, Pepper started lagging behind and I noticed a slight limp. I had planned to take Pepper to a part of the creek that has a natural dam where she can swim and fetch sticks without getting pulled downstream by the spring mountain runoff. But when I saw how tired she was as we got to the Mission Creek Greenway, I knew she'd never make it all the way to the swimming hole and then the whole way back home again, about three miles in all. What had been a routine walk for Pepper and me last summer was now next to impossible. Bryn and I found a place just off the Greenway trail where Pep could clamber down to the edge of the creek. She eagerly waded into the water to drink and cool off, being careful to not venture too far into the creek's rapid current. When I felt that she'd had enough time to rest, we started for home. The 5 minutes it usually takes us stretched to almost 15, even with Bryn and I gently encouraging Pep the whole way back.
The next night the three of us again ventured down to the creek, bringing Tyler along this time. Pepper seemed to do better, limping only slightly on the walk home and keeping up with my pace until just before we turned down our road. She was tired when she got home though and flopped down in her favourite spot, under the juniper trees, when I put her in the backyard. I wondered if taking Pep for walks was beneficial for her or just inflicted more pain. Today I got my answer.
My mum and I decided to drive up into the mountains this afternoon to take some pictures. On a whim, I decided that Pepper needed an outing and boosted her into the back of our truck. After Mum got some shots of the bluebirds and meadowlarks nesting near the logging road, I let Pep out of the truck bed to roam around. She excitedly raced around the cattle pastures sniffing (and tasting) everything in sight as Mum and I finished up our photoshoot. Pepper had magically transformed into her old energetic and crazy self. For close to two hours she meandered behind Mum and me, never showing a sign of tiredness or a limp. She even jumped into the back of the truck all by herself. As we drove home I realized that Pepper had enjoyed a dog's dream afternoon - freely running around and exploring out in nature with family nearby. I'm not sure how many more afternoons she'll have, but I'm grateful that I got to share this one with her.