I watched an old dog on the beach yesterday.
The morning was an absolute pearler. Clear blue sky, warm, calm waters. Children were making sandcastles, horses were being exercised, families out fishing. And I was attempting to tire out Audrey the 4 month old border collie puppy. As we walked my attention was caught by an old golden retriever ambling slowly down across the sand dunes. I used to work in animal welfare so I know I’m not supposed to anthropomorphize, but it seemed to me that as he did, he was smiling a wistful smile.
As I watched, he got half way down to the water, paused and sniffed the air. Then he spotted Audrey frolicking in the shallows with her slightly too big stick and stopped. He stood there for a noticeably long time, just watching her. And there was something about his gaze that made me think he was remembering being a boisterous young puppy, bounding in and out of the water. There was something so poignant in that moment, that I found myself smiling and welling up at the same time.
As I watched, the old fella walked slowly onto the wet sand and rolled onto his back, scratching deliciously from side to side, wagging his tail. Then, rising a little unsteadily to his feet, he made his way into the shallows for a few moments, where once he again he stopped and sniffed the sea air. Eventually he turned and ambled back up onto the soft dry sand to meet up with his human companion. She saw me watching her dog and smiled.
Prior to this encounter, I’d been thinking about events of the past week and looking ahead to the next. Analysing and planning. Crossing things off ‘to do’ lists, making new ones. But something about this wistful little experience, brought me gently but very firmly into the present. If an old dog can stop, sniff the sea air, simply enjoy the sun on his face and sand beneath his paws, then so, too, can I.