By Wick Fisher
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Dogs and longevity

Wick's World

 

August 30, 2018



I once had a Norwegian Elkhound named Jethro. I aptly named him Jethro Bodine after a character on “The Beverly Hillbillies.” Jethro could never make up his mind if he was going to be a brain surgeon or a streetcar driver.

Jethro’s grandma would ask him, “Jethro, why don’t you ever think boy?”

Jethro would reply, “It hurts, Granny!”

When asked why his Hollywood mansion had two sets of steps, Jethro would reply, “One for going up and one for coming down.”

Jethro the Elkhound was so stupid that when we would tie him up to keep him in the yard, it soon became unnecessary to put the chain on his collar. All we would do is drop the chain beside him and he assumed he was tied up. He only wandered off into the woods one time. It was when he was old and decrepit. Like dogs often do, we figured he wandered off to die. Maybe he wasn’t as stupid as we thought.

Later in life we tried out lap dogs. We soon discovered that they were aptly named because they spent as much time on your lap as possible. We got a Bichon-Frise and named him Otis. I got Otis certified as a hospital dog and I would take him in to the local nursing home to brighten people’s lives. The best moments came while walking down the hallway approaching the wheelchairs. When the patients would see Otis approach, their hands would drop down by the side of the chair and get a good friendly lick from Otis’s wet tongue. Research shows that dogs can lengthen one’s life or help restore their owners back to health. Indeed, Otis helped mend my broken back and my broken heart (heart attack).


Otis died in the back seat of my car. I was driving up from St. Paul to bring him to the vet to see why his health wasn’t improving. I last spoke to Otis at Sturgeon Lake. A few miles later, I pulled into our driveway to stop at our house before heading to the clinic. I opened the back door to lift Otis out of the car. “Otis, you’re dead!” were the only words I could muster.

A dozen years ago, my wife and I travelled to Kansas City to attend a cousin’s funeral. After the service, we learned that Mae, her miniature poodle, was left homeless. We looked at each other and knew we’d take her. Thus began the story every dog owner likes to brag about: This is the smartest dog I’ve ever had. Mae needed a partner so we brought Sweet Pea into our family. After getting run over and requiring several surgeries, Sweet Pea became known as the most expensive dog anyone has ever known.


Some dogs can have a vocabulary of up to several hundred words. Ours only need to hear two; “Let’s go!” Research shows that dogs increase their owner’s life span by an average of three years. Mae is now fourteen. If we use the 7:1 ratio commonly used to turn dog years into a human’s life span that means she is almost a centurion. As for Sweet Pea; she was lucky to get through her teenage years and like a lot of teenagers, her near death experience had to do with car accidents.

Sweet Pea is now in her mid-forties (in human years) and as of today she has yet to experience a mid-life crisis. My own mid-life crisis involved purchasing a Triumph TR-7 sports car. Because Sweet Pea never did pass her driving exam, she will have to look elsewhere for a crisis worth tackling. Maybe she’ll run off with a Doberman or have a brief fling with an Irish Setter. It’s probably best we let dogs live out their lives in dog years with a normal span of ten to twenty years, depending on the species.

Forties is still mid-life among humans. I once had a goal of living to 100. If my body continues to shoot out these short, small moments of pain, I’m beginning to think ninety is more realistic; and that might be pushing it. You are born and you live until you die, whenever that may be. In between is called life. Live it to the fullest and take care of your body better than Mickey Mantle who once said, “If I knew I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.”

His teammate, Yogi Berra, came up with this gem: “Always go to your friend’s funeral; otherwise they won’t come to yours.”

 

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