Before going any further I have an announcement to make. The Big Tree is back. Got here a little over a week ago. I probably should have told you sooner. Anyway, it’s here and it’s all dressed up. There are lights over the fireplace, lights on the really big tree in front of our house, and lights on trees and houses and bushes all over the neighborhood.

Those of you familiar with this column will know what this means and what’s coming. If you’re getting old and can’t remember certain things some times, or if you’re a new subscriber, read my previous posts to learn the significance of the Big Tree. I’m not going to explain it all over again.

O.K. So things have been a little weird around here recently. Or not so recently. More like for a few months, people time, which is, well, longer for me. I’ve told you before that the Doc and Mom like watching these annoying TV shows where people all talk at the same time and start yelling at one another and the word ‘politics’ comes up about once every 30 seconds. Not my idea of a good time, but whatever. I can usually sleep through most of it. Unless the Doc starts yelling at the TV or accidentally knocks something over or bangs on the coffee table and I levitate.

I’ve also told you about the Doc’s somewhat incoherent mutterings about retirement. Something along the lines of he wants to do it at some point, and that when he does he wants to move somewhere. I don’t know why. Where we are seems fine. I mean, I’ve been here almost all my life and I’m not bored with it. In fact I like knowing where I am, what to expect, who the other dogs are I need to keep an eye on. Moving would be a little confusing. But that’s beside the point.

The point is I’ve been able to figure out that the politics, whatever that is, and the retirement aren’t really two separate things. They’re connected somehow. Starting last summer the Doc and Mom got more interested than usual in the annoying TV shows. I tried to ignore them best I could, which was pretty well considering how much sleeping I’ve been doing—which we can talk about another time—but it was impossible to block them out entirely. And I heard another word over and over. Election. No idea.

But the Doc talked about it himself a lot. And I noticed that when he did it wasn’t unusual for him to also mention retirement. Since the whole business of retirement makes me a little nervous, especially after that letter I got from Jake about his folks retiring and moving him and Alice to Florida, I decided not to bring it up or ask what he meant. He’s been saying goofy stuff for a long time and as far as I could tell nothing much has happened, so it seemed reasonable to assume that regardless of what he was saying now things were likely to stay the way they are. I would keep my eyes and ears open and my mouth shut. At least for the time being.
Weeks passed and the whole politics-election-retirement thing got more intense. I was worried but stayed quiet. This was human craziness and there was a good chance I wouldn’t understand it even if he tried to explain it to me. Then I’d be nervous and confused.

Finally, one day, things changed. The Doc seemed calmer. He still watched the TV shows but when the people started all talking at the same time he would actually start laughing and change the channel. The word ‘election’ was as popular as ever but the word ‘retirement’ not so much. It seemed like some sort of crisis had passed. I figured it was probably safe to ask what it had been all about. It took a few walks for me to understand enough to share it with you. This is what I learned.

Politics is about government, which is something humans have to run things for them. Apparently certain humans, the bossy ones, like Australian shepherds, go into politics so they can get jobs making rules and telling the other humans what to do. These people are called politicians. Politicians get their jobs through elections. They apply for the job, they run around telling everyone how great they are for a while, and then there’s an election—which is an event where all the other humans vote on which of the politicians they like the best for a particular job. Apparently there are a whole bunch of jobs these people do. Very complicated.

Anyway, the boss of all the politicians is someone called the president and every four years there’s an election to decide who that person is going to be. It’s a big deal, and it happened a few weeks ago, right around the time the Doc started to calm down.

“So what’s the deal with politics, the election, and retirement? You’re not a politician, right? So what’s it got to do with us?”

The essence of what he told me was that we’d had a president for eight years, (the person who wins gets to try again four years later), that the Doc didn’t like. He mentioned lots of reasons, none of which made much sense to me, except the one about his job being more difficult and less fun because of this president’s politics. He said that one of the people trying to be the new president was a lot like the old one and was going to make things, including his job, a lot worse. Bad enough that he’d probably want to retire soon after the election.

He said he’d been planning for it. He got a license to work in Florida, (Yikes!), and had been talking to people about moving there. He said it’s cheaper and he could work a little and we’d be fine. (I decided not to mention that we’d also be in Florida…). But that person didn’t win and the person who did had said a bunch of things that might make the Doc’s job better. So even though he still wants to retire eventually he doesn’t necessarily have to do it right away. And even though he’s still talking about moving to Florida, like I said, he says crazy stuff all the time and nothing changes.

I’d had no idea how close I’d come to having Jake and Alice for neighbors and was glad I’d chosen to keep quiet when things seemed tense. It would have caused a lot of needless worry. I don’t like to admit it, but I’m getting old. I’m sure one day the Doc will call it quits and move away to somewhere less hectic, less expensive, and hopefully less crazy. I’d like to think that I’ll be there with him but I know that, since the election, chances are I won’t. It’s OK. I like it here. The stairs can be a problem sometimes, and we can’t take walks from the house without going up and down some hills, but it’s probably easier than moving.

People like to think that we have no sense of time, that one day is just like the last one and the one to follow. They think we believe we are going to live forever. Hah. We know better than they do that it isn’t so. And we’re OK with it.


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