29. Golden Years

Dear Boomer,

My Alpha has been grousing about something called a “Golden Jubilee.”  As far as I can tell, it has nothing to do with Golden Retrievers.  It seems to be something about the passing of time.

He says something like, “If Her Majesty[1] can take a whole year to celebrate her Golden Jubilee, then so can I with mine.”  I don’t think we’ve met this dog yet, have we? Nice name, though -- Majesty.

But ever since last winter, Alpha has been talking about his Golden Jubilee, and the other day he set down some of his thoughts about what he’s learned during the course of his celebration.  Here is part of his list, and what I think of it all.


1. Know what you’re good at and take time to play with it.  Don’t turn your talent into a career without keeping the best part of your talent for fun.

I think Alpha should do more to turn what he is good at into his full-time career.  We know that he is very good at taking me for walks and throwing tennis balls.  He should do this full time, rather than spending all day at his computer. 

2. Be aware of what key you play your life in – then transpose.  Don’t stay too long in the minor keys, no matter how poignant.  Vary the tempo as well.

This advice is a bit more of a mystery to me.  I think it might have something to do with noise.  My advice would be: bark loud and howl long – otherwise you’ll never find your pack.

3. Choose a vice.  Stay with it and don’t be ashamed.  It will make life more enjoyable and keep smugness at bay.

I hope that Alpha intends to apply this advice to our vices as well.  I would gladly lose any smugness in exchange for the freedom of pursuing my favourite vice – which is sleeping on Alpha’s bed when he’s not home.  But I don’t think his magnanimity stretches this far.

4. In relationships, don’t set your ask price low and expect to get more.  No one bids above the ask.

Alpha sets high standards for his relationships with dogs.  That’s his “ask.”   But I’ve found he sometimes compromises on a deal price – all it can take sometimes is a big grin and a wagging tale and, presto, more treats.

5. As we age, our bodies get softer and our hearts harder.  Our culture encourages us to invest time and money to keep our bodies hard.  We should invest even more in keeping our hearts soft.

Now, I couldn’t agree more with this one.  And what better way of hardening the body and softening the heart than a good brisk cross-country ski on a winter afternoon on the ice of the frozen river?  The body-hardening aspect is obvious.  And the heart softening?  Why, throwing sticks and snowballs to a frolicking dog, of course. 

In fact, I think we should launch a campaign: Soften Your Heart; Get a Dog!  Or maybe a variation: Get a Life; Get a Dog! 

I imagine billboards, radio spots, flyers we would distribute to the mail boxes of all the houses on the way to Windsor Park.  We’ll leave two flyers at the house where they complain to the dog police when some of our friends walk by off leash.

Alpha has more pearls of advice, but I don’t have time to pass them along now.  It’s the hour when we go to pick up the Pup at the kennel.  Maybe I should start making up my own list.  At this time of year, when the days are shortest, it might be a good time to think about how we’re going to improve as the days begin to grow longer again.  I’ll start today, because the last item on Alpha’s list is:

6.         Everything you do today is the foundation for your habits tomorrow.  Take time to think about what has gone right.  How can you replicate it?

And that, Boomer, is what we’re going to do, starting with a nap, after we come home with the Pup.  That is, unless the Pup decides he wants to throw the ball for me. The nap can wait.

                                                            Resolved to become a more doggy dog,


[1] Queen Elizabeth was crowned in 1952, making 2002 her 50th anniversary, or Golden Jubilee.  Cassandra Wise, The Zoscha Years, Carleton University Press, 2009, posits that Alpha himself was born in 1952.