There was a time when he walked me; now, I walk him. I’m speaking of Henry, our dog, who has, his legs giving out, vaulted beyond me.
He’s 84. How fast it’s all gone. Just the other day I couldn’t hit him enough tennis balls. He was insatiable in that regard, as insatiable as he’s always been when it comes to eating.
The other he’s not inclined to do, the result of an excision early on that I think has transmogrified what would have ordinarily been a healthy appetite into one that at times is grotesquely ravenous. But that’s the good news, I tell Mary. The scent of food still puts a youthful spring in his step, especially when her mother, who has slipped him things under the table despite our remonstrances ever since I can remember, is involved.
The only thing I’ve found that he’ll eschew is olives. Anything else — avocados, broccolini, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, kiwis, bananas, plantains, cashews, almonds, bok choy, rutabaga, parsnips, artichokes, wilted spinach, peas, peanut butter, even lettuce — he’ll eat, and with relish. I always tell people who ask if they can give him a treat to watch out for their hands.
Beauty is treats and treats beauty, and where he’s got them is all Henry needs to know. (I’ve been reading Keats’s odes lately.)
I say I walk him, and yet a friend who saw both of us abroad the other day said we both seemed stooped by age. “Life is the struggle against entropy,” Mary says. Excuse me while I struggle against entropy for a moment to look it up. . . .
Ah, “an inactive or static condition.”
Neither one of us is putting up much of a struggle against entropy these days. I invariably sleep late, and he invariably will be lying on his L.L. Bean bed in the kitchen in the morning sun, a soup bone emptied of its crammed store of peanut butter beside him, when, jangling his collar, I approach and say brightly, “It’s time, Henry, time to go to work. . . . You not want to come? You want to stay here? Come on, Hen, come on.”
Slowly, and with considerable effort, he’ll rise, and lower his head a bit so I can put his collar on.
“Okay, Hen,” I say, one hand on the doorknob, the other at the end of his leash, “here we go. Here we go. . . . Next stop Damark’s!”