Vail Daily column: I should have known better
He was too old to go on a hike, and I should have known better.
Sometimes we look at a family member and only see what we wish, remembering how someone once was, as opposed to how he or she really is today.
But there we both went, up the mountain above Homestead, for a short hike, usually under an hour to finish the entire trip.
It was fine at the beginning, the typical 20-minute uphill taking about half an hour, thanks to a few extra stops for water and to snap a picture or two.
With water and snacks consumed, we began the longer trek along the western ridge, where we can see the solar panels on the roof of our house most of the way down.
And that’s when his hips gave out.
Not five minutes into the downhill portion, I turned around and he was gone, only to find him a few steps back up the hill, sitting under a bush and panting.
I pulled out his bowl, watched him lap up a bit more water, and then told him to stand up and “get a move on” (it’s a Texas thing).
“Don’t be silly, Dane, home is right there,” I said pointing down the hill, convinced, as all dog owners will attest, that he understood my every word. “C’mon, let’s go!”
He tried to stand up, and I saw his hips collapse him right back into the dirt.
He looked up at me with those beautiful dark eyes that say so much without a single sound, tongue hanging out, panting like there was no tomorrow, and that’s when the lightbulb finally clicked in my ignorant head.
The doctor said it happens to this breed, almost all Golden Retrievers having bad hips beginning around age 10 or so.
He turns 12 in two weeks, the same day I turn 57.
He’s still been running around the yard most days, chasing the cat, playing with neighbor dogs, barking, acting like a puppy when you say, “Wanna go on hike?!”
But I guess that’s over now.
At this point, there was only one way for the two of us to get home — I had to carry him.
Exactly half my weight, at 75 pounds, I couldn’t go more than a minute or so before having to put him down and rest. Almost an hour into the downhill trek, he tried walking again, but within moments, he had crawled off the path to get under one of the larger bushes.
An older lady walked by and briefly smiled, but whatever she was listening to in her headphones was apparently more interesting than eye contact with me.
A younger lady in white was coming up the hill, but when she saw a strange man talking to a bush off the trail, she suddenly turned back down the hill.
Must be another Vail Daily fan.
And then along came Mike and his dog, Stanley.
Didn’t know the guy, but he recognized me (usually a good thing), and within minutes we were taking turns carrying Dane for the next half hour.
I couldn’t have made it without him.
A few days later, I went on an overnight hike with my three sons and daughter-in-law. Starting at Piney, we camped at Upper Piney Lake, then the next day, climbed over a saddle and down through the Booth Falls drainage.
Luckily, nobody had to carry me down the last few miles, but things were starting to give out all over the place, reminding me that this aging crap affects us all, eventually.
Like taking Dane up the hill in spite of his age and hips, I should have known better, but the journey, and having a loyal dog for a dozen years, is still worth it.
Richard Carnes of Edwards writes weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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