As the sun rises in the morning sky he ambles down the dirt and stone road. Few dogs are as big or as marked by life as this one. He stops to sniff a scent near the dewy, wet brush that threatens to one day crawl across to the other side, blocking this glorified footpath. He has no fear of vehicular traffic. The cars that venture onto this wooded lane are few and far between. His casual, confident attitude seems to imply that it is his road as much as anyone else’s. The sharp caw of a black crow in the distance causes his ears to prick up. The left ear so ratty and ragged that it may not serve him as well as it once had. He lifts his head and turns his rheumy eyes back over his shoulder. After seeing what he was looking for the black and brown mottled behemoth of a dog turns his muscular shoulders forward and begins to walk slowly again. He favors one of his rear paws as he walks as if it has a thorn that has yet to be removed by a kindly mouse. He has no tail to wag behind him, so it is impossible for a stranger to gauge his mood.
Then, as if attached by an unseen umbilical cord, comes his master. If dogs really do grow to resemble their owners or vice-versa, there likely are very few pairs that demonstrate this phenomenon more clearly. A grizzled, almost claw-like hand covered in nearly transparent skin holds a weather beaten oak cane. The copper tip and duck head shaped handle appear as old and worn by life as their owner. He wears glasses best described as spectacles behind which his eyes seem almost overwhelmed by the wrinkles and folds of skin that have taken on the rough shape of a face. A battered, torn baseball cap, with a shadow where the missing logo had been stitched on, adorns his head, forever leaving it a mystery what lies beneath. To the curious observer he might be as bald as a billiard ball or hiding a thick, lustrous mane of Rhett Butler-like hair beneath his cap. His small, frail shoulders are concealed beneath a khaki colored windbreaker reminiscent of what one might wear when out sailing on a cool fall day. Underneth he wears a plain blue workman’s shirt that may or may not have a red and white stitched name tag that is concealed by the jacket. What might such a man’s name be I wonder? His feet shuffle along behind the cane in plain, dark brown workboots that were not designed for comfort, but which must be soft and flexible by now from many years of walks such as this one. With a smile and a wave he slowly passes by.
Although impossible, this man and his canine companion appear to be the same age, closer to a century than anything else. If he so chose this man could probably hold court beside a campfire, pipe or cigar in hand as he spun stories of days gone by while his faithful companion stretches at his feet, soaking in the radiant warmth of the fire. In my mind I know they won’t live forever. I know that someday there won’t be that quiet wave and smile on Sunday morning and I’ll miss them both.