People Dogs Live Forever (Essay)

Apr 10, 2022 by Mike Magluilo
The early days are euphoric. The dog is soft, cute and playful. We smile a lot. He radiates energy and chews through everything in his path as he engages with his new world. His nature is to be wild and boundless, so we thoughtfully introduce the structure that will allow us all to live together. We arrange our lives around the dog. He keeps us up late, wakes us during the night and needs to be exercised during the day. Walks, hikes, dog parks and meetups become things we do in our free time. The dog lives for fun, exploration, learning, eating, peeing, pooping and humping the legs of unsuspecting visitors. 

Without noticing it, the dog becomes part of our life, and ours becomes a life with a dog. We become dog people. The dog needs to eat regularly and get his exercise. Most of the time we walk a familiar route on a leash, but we also take him for hikes and let him run off-leash at the park. The dog loves new experiences and wants to sniff the other dogs he passes. The dog enjoys life while forming his identity, finding his place in the pack. He grows and is healthy, well-trained and cared for. He becomes a people dog. 

We notice grey hairs on our dog’s muzzle. The vet tells us he needs a few teeth removed. He snores at night. He’s an adult dog but still loves to bark and pretend he can chew the door down when the mailman visits. He depends on us for exercise and food and enjoys his walks, hikes and visits to the park. However, he has become more selective about who he socializes with. He no longer sniffs every butt he passes. The best part of his day remains the return of his owners, but he rarely attacks us with a “welcome home” greeting at the door. He’s more likely to sniff our legs to find out what we’ve been up to or simply raise his head in a look of recognition from the couch by the front window. The dog has grown content with life in our family, and we no longer remember life without the dog. 

One day we notice the dog is old. His face grows lean and white. His eyes glisten with a quieter emotion. He still can’t talk, but we are able to communicate with each other more clearly than ever. All the dog seems to want is to be included. He gets anxious when we leave the house, uncomfortable being left behind. When we are home, he wants a lap to place his head upon or a warm body to snuggle against. He is more likely to herd us to bed than to the dog park, though he submits to exercise when it’s offered and hasn’t forgotten how to strut down the street like he owns it. He notices other dogs we pass on our walks but knows life will go on if he misses the latest opportunity to socialize. We no longer fear he is going to run away, and we all enjoy the liberation of allowing him to walk alongside us without a leash and come in and out the front door as he wishes. The best part of his day has become soaking up the sunshine in the front yard. 

Our dog has been present for everything that’s happened in our lives since we welcomed him into our home. He’s aged, while we’ve grown. Life has gotten complex, yet he’s kept it real. We start to wonder how much time he has left. The dog has become the glue to our family, and we give him everything we can to keep his life rich and comfortable. A life will eventually end. It’s what happens. But the dog will never leave us. 

Benny the Pug, May 2021 (12 yo)