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The dogs were getting older

     Lazing in the sun, Sadie lifts her tawny head, her pointy ears flopped over, and watches with soft brown eyes as she waits for me to bend over and scratch beneath her chin. I guess she doesn't know I'm getting older, too, and it's a long way down.

     If instead, I wait for her to stand up, the coffee in my cup gets cold as she shifts her thick-but-not-fat body and, in agonizingly slow motion, untangles her legs. With her head and forelegs, she lifts the less willing parts of her body until she's firmly planted with her four paws on the ground. Obediently I scratch that place beneath her chin and rub her forehead. I take my time. The descent won't be much easier for her and I want to delay it. She purrs with a soft rumble in her throat. I don't have the heart to stop.

     Except that Radar, our also-getting-older German Shorthair, stands a few feet away, waiting his turn. He's rather more hard and bony than Sadie, who is part Labrador Retriever, part German Shepherd. His deep brown fur isn't really fur - it's more like short wiry bristles - and he doesn't purr. He stands there until you're done caressing him and then, after a meeting of his eyes with yours, he ambles off.

     Radar doesn't chase after gophers any more. Hasn't cornered a lizard for a long time. He and Sadie used to chase each other around the garage and across the back of the house, slipping and skidding as they rounded the corner of the house and then pouring on the speed to charge down the length of the side yard before turning back toward the garage.

     Every now and then, Sadie would change the rules and stop in mid-stride as Radar disappeared behind the side of the house. Perking up her ears, she would turn and tiptoe off in the direction he was approaching, ready to pounce as he skidded around the next corner. Radar tried, but never quite mastered this trick of Sadie's.

     Occasionally now, the two take up their sport of younger days with a short burst of energy, and on chilly winter evenings, they often jump and pounce about while waiting for their dinner. But it's not like old times.

     So I was astonished last week when we were turned down for a quote on homeowner's insurance because of our dangerous dog. With insurance rates so high, I thought I might get lucky and save a hundred dollars by changing insurance companies. The first agent I called said he could mail the application or I could answer over the phone - there were only eighty or ninety questions. I chose the phone.

     I was doing fine until he asked about dogs. Did we have any? Yes. How many? Two. What breeds were they? Huh? I thought we were insuring our house, not our animals. But I told him one was a German Shorthair and the other was a mix. "A mix of what?" he asked. I said, "Um, she's part Labrador and part - uh, oh yes, part German Shepherd, I think."

     "Are you sure?" I wasn’t, but I could look it up. Should I? "Yes, definitely," he said. So I did and I was right - half Lab, half Shepherd.

     It seems Sadie is a vicious dog and therefore we aren't eligible for home insurance. According to the insurance guy, there are five breeds of dogs that can't be trusted. German Shepherd is one of them. Even one percent German Shepherd. He politely but firmly ended the interview. I hung up the phone and went outside. I looked closely at Sadie.

     Yes, she's getting old. No, she's not vicious. She'll be around, and so will Radar, for a few more years and I won't mind a bit not saving a couple of hundred dollars. It's a small price to pay for the companionship of a vicious ol' dog and her gentle buddy, Radar.

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