I was just hanging out with Sampson and realized he is having one of his "old-looking" days. Sometimes I look at him and it is amazing to see how he has aged while other days he still looks young and spry. Today, I noticed that the dark hair on his mask has some white sprinkled through it--he's becoming salt and brindled. Additionally, his white belly is getting lots of black spots--like age spots. His age is showing on the outside and his inside has been struggling since the beginning.
Recently, we have added another serious health concern to our list of health issues for the Sam-dog. He has a substantial heart murmur. The doctor told us that since he is still active and his lungs sounded clear, maybe it is not THAT serious...yet. Basically, if he survives all of his other struggles, it is very likely that one day, without warning, his heart will just stop. I discussed his exercise routine (because I am working to keep my end of our deal going) and she said to always remember that he is still a dog. It's not beneficial for us to limit his activity--he's happy moving when he wants to move and sleeping when he wants to sleep. (And he has become the master relaxer!) We need to let him do what he wants to do, even if it may shorten his life by a run or two (or more). I am trying to tell myself if he falls over on a run, at least he went out strong doing what he wanted to do--and I think that would be better than the suffering that we saw with Angel at the end.
But thinking like this is hard--he's still my puppy (my first-born) and I love him. :) Though it may seem silly, I have even compared Sampson to some elderly loved-ones by saying I want them all to go strong until the end. (Again, I do not necessarily hold my pets in the same category as my human loved-ones, but I often see similarities...clearly humans come first, but I digress...) Independence, self-esteem, and strength are what give us all quality of life. Of course, I want many decades ahead for all of my loved ones (even I know that is not possible for some for natural reasons), but I hope those years are filled with health and happiness, not suffering or pain. This is yet another time I reflect on how similar humans and our pets really are, at least to those of us who are pet-lovers. And, again, this is another time that I wish I could take on some of my dogs traits--like their lack of fear or vanity issues. Sampson doesn't sit around noticing his hair or skin changing colors--he doesn't pluck the white hair and put makeup on to cover his age spots or wrinkles--he doesn't know he's old (or sick, I don't think). He gets up and starts his days the same way--he may be a little slower, a little plumper, and look a little more aged, but his goals are the same. Some food, a walk, and some love is all he needs. He takes it all in stride. He has earned those white hairs and spots and, to me, it makes him all the more handsome.
All of this makes me wonder exactly why the anti-aging business thrives the way it does. Why can't we be proud of moving forward with our lives? I hope as I grow in years and wisdom, I can take all things in stride as Sampson does...and as Angel did. I hope that I can remember that age (even the physical parts that change our outward appearances) is something that is, in many ways, earned. Those lines, white hairs, and extra pounds are nothing more than signs on the road map of all we accomplish through our lives--including the extra stress that us humans impose on ourselves--and we should be proud of that. I hope that Sampson has at least a few years left with us--healthy and happy years--and that his heart can hold on for lots more runs, walks, play times, meals and naps! I will try not to dwell on all of his illnesses (which is easier to do when we are not paying insane vet bills) and work on enjoying all of life's blessings...I'm earning my salt and brindle every step along the way. :)