30 January 2006

The Old Dog and the Stairs

[Posted by Colin.]

Over the last couple weeks, I've observed some interesting new behavioral traits in Didg. Before describing that behavior, however, everyone needs to be aware of three facts:
  1. Next Monday, Didg turns 6 (that's like a human turning 40, according to the most recent way of counting dog years). Stay tuned next week for a tribute to Didg going over the hill.
  2. Our apartment sits at the top of 97 steps in a spiral staircase.
  3. There is a tiny custom-made elevator that stops between floors, on the opposite side of the spiral from the entrances to the apartments.
When Didg and I come back inside, I start heading up the stairs so that I can get some exercise. Lately, however, I've noticed that when I reach the first floor, Didg is still at the bottom of the stairs. The other day, I looked back and called him to follow me. He looked up at me briefly, with those massive brown eyes, then dropped his head and started slowly walking in a circle, kind of kicking his heels as if to say: "You know, daddy, we could—if you really wanted—take the elevator...I mean...I don't have to, and I know you like getting the exercise of climbing the stairs, but—well, never mind, I'm coming."

Needless to say, our dog has a very expressive face. Then he lifted his front paw and started up the steps. But, rather than just walking, he limped. This dog—who had just been happily sniffing every tree in sight, greeting all the passersby, and bounding after every baguette—actually limped up the stairs as if he had arthritis in every joint of his stubby little legs and in every vertebra of his back!

He got as far as the elevator and stopped, turning to look up at me with the saddest puppy-dog eyes he could muster. Again that look: "You know, daddy, I am getting older. See all this grey hair I've got? And my back and my legs, they hurt so bad. I mean, I could do the stairs, but the elevator is just right here and there are soooo many stairs. What do you think, daddy?"

My cold-hearted response, emanating from about 20 steps above him: "C'mon, Didg. Hurry up!"

Didg continued limping the rest of the way to the first floor. Then, after another little breather, moaned his way up to the next elevator door and shot me his most pathetic look. Another shout to "hurry up" got him to limp up to the next landing, where he seemed to be hoping that he would be rescued by François and Charlotte (the two kids Amy has babysat).

When the kids didn't appear, Didg looked up and finally gave up the act. He sprinted the last three flights of stairs to our apartment, arriving breathless but grinning as the blood pumped through his herding-dog muscles.

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