My dog is growing old, right before my eyes. There's something surreal about watching the whole life cycle of another creature you care about. People never witness each other's bookends of life; we just catch segments that are sometimes the beginnings or endings. Never the whole thing. But somehow, time drifted by and now my dog is a little whiter of paw, a little weaker of hindquarters.
What is wonderful and heartbreaking about this is that he isn't aware that he's aging. He has naturally made some adjustments for his limitations, but really, in his heart, he fully believes he can run ten miles without stopping--leaping and twisting in the air to snatch a tennis ball as he used to do. And even after he comes crashing down in a spectacular failure, he still scrambles to his feet, prepared to hurtle onwards.
He's always been that way, completely engaged in the moment of pursuit and unhindered by any other elements. As someone who goes through life painfully self-conscious and too, too worried about the anonymous world's assessment of me, I totally envy and admire this innate talent he has. The only self-awareness he has involves deploying his chasing and catching skills, and returning the ball to any human who will humor him. (Including tiny humans who haven't the motor skills to humor him just yet.)
His life might be too short for me, but nobody can say he didn't make the most of it. He has lived firmly in each moment, and let his feet take flight when they wished, without fear or a second thought.