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There has been a gradual change in Beau, my soon to be 9-year-old golden retriever.

As time marches on, Beau is getting noticeably calmer. Bear in mind, everything is relative. For most of his life, Beau has had the metabolism of a hummingbird. He, or at least some part of his body, is in perpetual motion.

Until recently, he paced incessantly during his waking hours. When most of your house has hardwood floors, it’s like living with a 24-hour metronome … i.e. it’s maddening.

When Beau isn’t pacing, he’s standing next to you wagging his tail. Granted, that sounds idyllic. For most dogs it would be. But, Beau’s tail is more a sledge than simply a furry appendage. When Beau is standing next to a wall, you’re concerned for the integrity of your home.

I’m convinced he could drive nails with that tail.

To someone outside our home, these probably seem like complaints. They really aren’t. We’ve come to grips with Beau’s foibles and eccentricities. They actually make him quite endearing, albeit sometimes at wits end.

Despite our best efforts to put some weight on him, until recently Beau has been ridiculously thin, to the point of looking undernourished. Our veterinarian suggested several years ago that we keep him on dog food formulated for the high-energy needs of puppies.

Fortunately, that worked. Now, as his metabolism is waning with age you can no longer play xylophone on his ribs. In fact, he’s become a quite handsome dog.

And, in the past few months, he’s gotten easier to live with.

Occasionally, he’ll still pace. But, that ceases with one firm “Beau!”

When he hears that tone of voice, Beau walks to the couch and settles down on the floor at our feet. In most instances, he’s content to lay there for an hour or two, occasionally pawing at our leg, asking for a little gratuitous affection.

I’ll spend 30 minutes or so absent-mindedly stroking his back. Normally, one of us falls asleep at that point. If it’s me, I’ll wake up 90 minutes later and head for bed. More often than not, I’ll stumble getting up because he’s still at my feet.

It makes me smile every time it happens.

And, on the nights my wife is out of town babysitting the grandkids I’ll say, “C’mon Beau, let’s go to bed.” He knows the drill. By the time I’ve finished brushing my teeth, Beau is curled up on his pillow in our bedroom.

Hearing him sigh in the dark before he falls asleep is a source of great amusement.

While the newer, calmer Beau is much easier to live with, these new personality traits leave me wistful. Aggravating as he could be, I kind of miss the old Beau. I just hate to think of him getting older.

Beau is the third golden retriever to share our lives. Jack passed away when he was just nine. When I look at Beau and see return gaze of unconditional love … well, I’m just not ready to entertain the notion of life without him.

And, that’s what I’ll try to remember the next time that killer tail sweeps a glass of water off the coffee table or the next time he paces in front of the television with two outs in the ninth inning.

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LES WINKELER is the outdoors writer for The Southern Illinoisan. Contact him at, or call 618-351-5088 / On Twitter @LesWinkeler.


Sports editor

Les Winkeler is sports editor and outdoors writer for The Southern Illinoisan.

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