I don't make it out to visit my family as often as I probably should, so occasionally things catch me by surprise.
For example, one of my parents might do some remodeling or buy a new car, and I'll have no idea until I stop over for a visit.
Last weekend, however, it was my dog - or my father's dog, rather - who surprised me. It occurred to me for the first time that Jake, a beagle, is old.
Of course, once I stopped to do the math, I realized it shouldn't have come as a shock. He's not the puppy he was when Dad bought him back when I was in the seventh grade. But, to me, it seems like he grew old overnight.
At 11, he's a little gray in the face and has packed on a few extra pounds. Those changes have been gradually happening for a while now. He has never been the most active dog, but I've always been able to get him to play fetch or go for a walk.
He had no interest in chasing after his hamburger dog toy last weekend, though. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get him to even turn his head toward where I had thrown it.
Jake seemed happy enough to see me. His excitement was apparent for 10 minutes or so after I arrived as he wagged his tail, barked and jumped on me. Then, he resumed his curled up position on the living room carpet, lifting his head and barking whenever he heard a loud noise.
Running around might not appeal to Jake anymore, but one thing hasn't changed in 11 years: he still likes dog treats. He's not opposed to doing a trick or two to get one of them. I'm confident his interest in those won't change no matter how old he gets.