When I say I haven’t seen someone in a dog’s age, in simple terms it means I haven’t seen them in a very long time. A dog’s age is an Americanism dating back to 1830–40. It’s a phrase that old folks use that doesn’t make much sense to younger folks. (Then again, younger folks say things that make absolutely no sense at all) A dog’s age might seem like an arbitrary block of time but it makes the point.
Like most men, I used to tell time by cars. I remembered what car I was driving at the time an event took place and that would help me determine the year it happened. I don’t trade cars as often as I used to so they are no longer an effective method of gauging time. These days I use dogs. I think of someone I haven’t seen in a while and remember which of our dogs they might have met. Mind you, we don’t have a revolving door with animals around here like some folks, nor do we run a kennel. The rescue dogs that come into our lives are forever investments of time and love.
Dogs are a pretty accurate way of determining a timeline when you think about it. A friend of mine borrowed my chainsaw two dogs ago. A half-assed contractor promised to return and repair our roof two dogs ago. He lied. No surprise. My wife’s laptop lasted five dogs. I have had my now tattered jacket for nine dogs and a pair of boots for twelve dogs. I have a friend that I have known for more than fifteen dogs and we are closer than any family member has ever been. As you have undoubtedly learned by now, DNA is not a reliable gauge of love or loyalty.
There are friends I haven’t seen in two or three dogs which is a revealing testimony to the value of our relationship. Two people whom at one time I would have considered “best friends” didn’t last a dog. By their choice, I have not seen my sons in nine dogs. Think about it, that’s nine precious souls that I have loved and lost that they are not even aware of, nor would they care about. Imagine the years of love they have missed out on. If, by some stretch of a naive imagination, my prodigal sons decided to reenter my life, what would we talk about? Sadly, too much time has sifted through life’s hourglass and there would be no way and perhaps no interest in catching up. One-third of their lives have passed since I last saw them. My life will be over in fewer years than they have been gone. That whole Millennial generation, I’ll tell ya…
In twelve dogs, I have not met a single new friend worth the trouble and most of the old ones have drifted away for various reasons. (Friendship typically lasts less than one dog) To be totally honest, at my age, it’s not worth the effort anymore to make new friends and I stopped waiting for old ones to reappear. Unlike dogs, people regularly disappear never to be heard from again because unlike dogs, people are incapable of love. Real love. Love is forever, people are temporary. Do you want to know love? Look at your dog. People don’t measure up, do they?
We know that lead in paint is toxic and over time it can be fatal, which is why it hasn’t been used in a dog’s age. Time is also fatal in large enough doses. Given enough time, without nurture, relationships, like people, die and are gone forever. A rotting cadaver cannot be resuscitated, neither can a dead relationship. A new relationship must be born and I neither have the time nor am I convinced that it is worth the effort, which is why I don’t put much stock in the company of people anymore. I no longer choose to be bothered by the whims of walking corpses.
Yes, a dog will eventually die but the loving mark that they leave on our hearts is a blessing that will live forever.
If you have a friend that you haven’t seen in a dog’s age, make another attempt to rekindle that flame. If it doesn’t work, get a dog and start counting.
~ Rod Ellis