Fido was in a pensive mood, and so was I.
Sunday afternoons can do that, with dogs as well as with humans.
Me, I was reading the Sunday New York Times on the deck. I sat in the sunlight. It felt like May.
Fido rested at my feet, but he had his eyes open to survey the neighborhood.
I had just put down the front section and was reaching for the Book Review.
“How long do dogs live?” Fido’s questions frequently come out of the blue.
“That’s a pretty complicated question, Fido. The oldest dog on record lived to be 28 years old, but a dog’s life expectancy varies by breed. Generally, though, dogs average 10-12 years across all breeds.”
“So if I live to, say, 12, how many years does that give me?”
“I don’t even know how old you are now,” I said. “The rescue shelter could only estimate your age. I think you’re about 5 or 6 years old by now.”
Fido put his nose between his front paws, and he seemed to be thinking about that Great Big Question. Me, I skimmed a few book reviews, yawned a Sunday afternoon kind of yawn and reached for the Sunday Review, where all the editorials are. I bounced from Friedman to Dowd to Kristof, and so on.
Fido lifted his head and turned his eyes toward mine.
“What dogs are the smartest dogs?” he wanted to know.
I said I didn’t know, but I’d research right away on my laptop. There, I found a fellow named Stanley Coren, a psychiatrist and a leading canine researcher and widely published author from the University of British Columbia.
“This guy says they rank in this order:
1. Border collies
3. German shepherds
4. Golden retrievers
6. Shetland sheepdogs
7. Labrador retrievers.”
“Howzabout mutts like me?”
“I’d say a dog who lies around while his human reads the Sunday Times displays a great acuity,” I said.
Fido put his nose back between his front paws and seemed to ponder that Great Big Question, on top of the other GBQ (see above).
Right about then, a guy on a mountain bike pedaled by, with a mutt-like dog on-leash, trotting beside him.
“I can’t wait for Bike-To-Work Day,” Fido said, and he really meant it. We have a short ride to work, about a mile, and Fido just loves it when we commute by bike.
Among the best biking partners, I said to him, are Akitas, Labradors, huskies and collies, along with good-sized mutts.
Dogs who are 2 to 5 years old can keep up at about 10 miles an hour for about an hour, and that’s just right for us. It’s a nice speed to turn things over in your mind before and after the ardors of the office. And not just for me.
Fido probably thinks up his questions during these times. In the winter, we stroll the neighborhood and the same thing happens.
We had been strolling earlier in the afternoon, which probably made Fido all the more inquisitive.
“Anything good on TV tonight?” he asked.
“NBA doubleheader,” I replied.
“That sounds fine to me,” he said. He put his nose back between his paws, close to the front section that I’d put on the deck. It didn’t take long for him to ask his next question.
“Is Putin really going to win the elections?” he asked.
“You are a very smart dog,” Fido, “and don’t let any old Border collie tell you differently.”
George and Fido. Photo/Jesse Barlet