Meet Molly, my soon-to-be 10 year old black Lab. Molly is the matriarch of our pack that includes Wylie, a 2 year old 90 pound yellow Lab who will always be a puppy, and Toby, our Jack Russell Terrorist who lives up to his moniker.
Toby is a bully, and I was sure he was the alpha of the pack, but after attending an enlightening talk about wolves by Jodi Picoult, I learned that actually Molly is the alpha. The alpha, usually a female, tells the other dogs what to do, and nobody messes with her. I’ve watched Molly bark out orders (sorry I couldn’t resist,) and do her part for the pack, often times exhibiting the same inborn traits of her distant cousins a thousand times removed. Molly decides when Wylie’s game of fetch is over. Molly tells the other dogs when it’s time to eat and then finds my husband or myself to make sure we get right on that.
Lately, when the other dogs run out of the house all frenzied to bark at deer or a passersby or just for the heck of it, Molly hangs back on the porch. Still barking directions. I’ve noticed that her muzzle is more gray and fatty tumors make her slick black coat lumpy. But yesterday, she had her hair done, and as much as she despises my leaving her at the doggie salon, when I picked her up, she was so proud of how she looked. Because she smelled different, maybe girly to Toby , he tried to challenge her, and she put him down on the ground leaving no doubt who is the boss.
I don’t know how much longer Molly will be around. Our Shadow lived to be 16, Fuzzy 14, Milo 13 all alpha males, all passed within a year and a half of each other. As they neared the end of their lives, one of the other dogs took over their job in the pack. The fact that nobody challenges Molly on a regular basis makes me hopeful we’ll have her around for a long time to come.
Every day she has a few more white hairs here and there, but never seems to worry about them, a few more lumps on her less-than svelte figure. Every day makes sure we know we are loved by her. She takes time bask in the sunshine, and enjoys every meal like it’s her last. A study for growing older gracefully.