My friend Dave Dudley, who’s married to a graduate-school classmate of mine, has written a really wonderful piece in AARP The Magazine on the aging processboth canine and humanand what we might learn from watching our beloved pets mature. For instance, even in adulthood, dogs have the ability to retain puppylike characteristics:
Emotionally, a domestic dog exists in a kind of perpetual adolescence, a long summer twilight of play and napping and happy routine in the company of parents who never get old, and never let you grow up.
The scientific term for this Peter Pan state is “neoteny” — when adults retain juvenile traits — and it’s one of many characteristics of older canines to invite inquiry from longevity researchers.
Dudley goes on to explore the aging process through the example of his dog, Foghat. According to Dudley, getting a dog was “a statement of incipient maturity, right on the heels of the first decent apartment and a few years before marriage,” and Foghat’s role went from being an ur-baby, to a symbol of stability, to a harbinger of our own mortality. Dudley’s long article intersperses scientific research, touching anecdotes, and real emotion, as he walks us through the various stages of his life with Foghat.
As Dave’s wife, Sondara wrote, this article is about “our dog, our life, your life”and I highly recommend that you take the time to read it.