The Mountain Times

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Aging in place: Excuses

AIP-pic -grey -back -ground

If I had followed the advice in these columns, I wouldn't even have needed to make excuses. After all, a 60-pound, hyper-energetic, combination Rhodesian Ridgeback/greyhound is not exactly an aging-appropriate choice of pets for a guy my age.
But I'd always wanted a Ridgeback and the mixed breeds make Pepper smaller than she would have been, 'though she is just as powerful and muscular.

Did I mention Ridgebacks were originally bred to hunt lions in Africa?

Anyway, we were trying to clip her nails when she caught me in the cheek with an unclipped toe. It didn't exactly tear my cheek from mouth to earlobe, but it did make a very pronounced gash-sort of swollen red doodle across my face. What it looked most like was those badly healed scars gangsters have in B movies. You know, the tough guy who likes to beat people up and gets killed in some dramatic way that doesn't really move the plot along.

I made the first excuse to a lady I noticed staring at me in the grocery line. I smiled and said, "Don't let anyone tell you Chihuahuas aren't dangerous."

Then, to a little kid at the post office with his mother, "Never run with scissors," I said, touching the scar, "It isn't worth it."
"If you decide to take up fencing, make sure and get a proper foil; you can't just find a couple of skinny swords and start practicing with a friend," was the how I put it to the postmaster.

To my neighbor the explanation was that I had injured myself while cleaning a hunting knife.
When a fellow just flat out asked me how I got the scar I answered, "What scar?"

The only place I actually told the truth was at the pet store when we brought Pepper in to get the rest of her nails trimmed. The clerk was more than a little nervous when I cautioned her to wear goggles and keep her cheeks covered. As I left her to do her work, she appeared to be fitting on something like a goalie's mask.

There were others like, 'I'd have settled for a prison tattoo if they had given me a choice' or 'I have my reasons for not trusting parrots.' All in all, it has been a lot of fun. As the wound heals and my wife, Kelly's, efforts make it increasingly unlikely there will be a permanent scar, I'm relieved and a bit saddened.

In the future, Pepper will get her nails trimmed professionally. And I have made a solemn promise that if there is a next dog, it won't stand higher than my shins. After all, Aging in Place doesn't happen by accident.

Scott Funk is Vermont's leading Aging in Place advocate, writing and speaking around the state on issues of concern to retirees and their families.