There's something in the face of an old dog, isn't there? An old wizened expression, as though the 10-20 years of its life were filled with experiences long to tell.
But when we look at an old dog's face, we see the imminence of mortality looking back at us. Our own death, premature or a long ways off yet, stares right back at us through the hazy, cataract-filled eyes of an old dog.
Our evolutionary process and that of dogs became intertwined tens of thousands of years ago. We evolved whites in our eyes to help us non-verbally communicate with them. They evolved barking to help prove invaluable and earn free food from us. So it's no surprise that their lives, though shorter, follow the same path as ours. Born helpless mammals, they age quicker than we'd like, and soon enter a 'rebellious teenager' phase. After a couple years, they mature and live relatively healthy, stable, productive lives until they grow old.
And then eventually death comes for them, just like us. As our domesticated partners, they don't have the luxury that wild animals do of slinking off to a private, hidden place to die. Just like us, they don't get predated before they are tired and arthritic and tumorous. Just like us, the old ones are usually mostly-blind, mostly-deaf, and mostly-sleeping.
This little charmer joined my family 2 months ago. When I brought her home, she was nine pounds, now she weighs nearly 20, and is only half grown. By this time next year, she'll look something like this:
And then, someday, she'll get old. That satisfied, grey, cloudy expression will take over her face, just as it takes over the face of every old dog. And she'll die. And I'll miss her.