I realized today that Gibby is no longer a great big dog. I used to describe him to people as "this really huge dog" while holding my hand at a level slightly lower than my shoulder. I guess he felt that big to me, but he no longer does. I was sitting on the fender of my stock trailer while Gibby was catching his breath from a series of magnificent leaps and runs. He rolled in the grass, then picked up his ball and carried it over to me. He knew I was resting, too, so he placed the ball on the ground at my feet, then he moved sideways over to my knees, pressed himself against my legs and made it clear that he wanted to be petted. I petted him and rubbed his back enough to rub out some of his shedding hair. Somehow, he's gotten smaller and cuddlier.
When our time is up, I tell Gibby, "It's time to go into the house" and he turns and walks right to the door. Last night, for the first time, he didn't head for the door, he layed down and then rolled on his back and pushed his ball around with his nose - it was quite clear to both of us that he knew his time was being cut short. I guess he just doesn't understand how uncomfortable it is for people to get soaking wet in the rain - anyway, when I said, "Gibby, it's starting to rain and I can't stay out here", he got up and ran to the door.
Once he's inside and his bowl has been filled with his kibble, he stands next to the bowl and looks at me. We've reached a routine which includes my giving him a head pat before I leave. If I forget the pat, he follows me to the door. When it's really hot, I'm usually worn out by the time we get inside, so I sit down for a minute. If I have already given Gibby his head pat, he dives into his bowl and starts crunching food, if I haven't, he comes over and stands as close to me as he can get so I'll give him some petting. I guess it's that need for petting that has made him a smaller dog. Now, when I describe him to people, I find I extend my arm downward to show he's not much taller than my knees. Funny how dogs shrink when they're happy and lovable.