Earlier this year, the 300-pound beagle signed up for Obamacare. It's worked out well. He seems to see the vet on a weekly basis now: for fleas, anxiety, warts, depression, insomnia, gout, gallstones, sex addiction, itching, incontinence, low blood sugar, hot flashes and the occasional but aesthetically defensible Botox injection.
Hence, the big beagle is the very picture of California health and vitality. On most days, he seems the happiest person in our house. When I return home, he greets me with enthusiasm, which is all I really ask of anyone whose every meal or moment of comfort I subsidize. Even when I step outside for the mail, he is expressly happy when I return, overjoyed to the point of near collapse.
"Hi, this is Cassie," the vet's assistant says by phone. "We have your dog down for an appointment tomorrow ... ."
So back in the car we go, off to another appointment. I keep telling him that good health doesn't just happen, he needs to commit to it. Still, when we enter the vet's office, he does that Peggy Fleming ice dance that nervous dogs do on linoleum. "Get me outta here ... yabba dabba doo!"
What I'm saying is that our dog now gets better health care than I do, though I swear by my longtime internist, "Dr. Steve," who prefers cash and works mostly out of his car.
The best part is when Dr. Steve and I go out to grab a bite and he calls everyone "nurse." As in, "Nurse, another round for the table, please!" I never fail to laugh.
Look, I don't want to live forever. I just want to outlive Madonna, who like me is approaching 60 and starting to deal with a lot of the same baby boomer breakdowns. I mean, how many artificial hip joints is that girl going to go through?
Like many boomers, I probably work a little too hard to stay fit: swim three days a week, run four, and spend most nights helicoptering my arms in bed while wondering — in a half-dream state — where my life went.
When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I do is feel for my head to be sure it didn't roll off during the night. Second, I reach for my legs to make sure they are still warm with life and able to still carry me to the bathroom and the kitchen.
Honestly, not much has changed since college.
Yet I see the sloping shoulders of older gentlemen and wonder at what point you start turning into odd, geometric shapes or become the guy at the gym who just slumps in the shower chair and naps with a towel over his head.
Look, I have no complaints. I wear middle age like feety pajamas. With the wrinkles come wisdom, perspective, gambling savvy, plus a wry understanding that the world goes on no matter how many morons we elect.
Besides, whatever ails me as I get older I will fight to the final breath just for fear of the kind of eulogy my kids might give.
I imagine them setting up some PowerPoint presentation to flash iPhone photos of me passed out on the couch after a holiday feast or falling off a ladder and into the Christmas tree.
Hopefully, they would go for laughs, just like their old man always did. But midway through the PowerPoint, there would be some glitch in which a Bitmap image won't load or a low-res photo comes out two pixels wide and upside down.
At that point, the corpse (that's me!) would chuckle a little and die all over again.
I don't mean to brag, but next week I'll be 59. That's 413 in cat years and 712 in suburban dad years.
Time to work on my will, I guess, though I'm in no real rush. Dr. Steve says I have at least 20 good years left. An actuary I spoke with said the most likely cause of death for me right now is my wife killing me.
"What's No. 2?" I asked.
"Your wife killing you," he said somberly.
So I'm 2 for 2 in that department, which just encourages me to work on how I'd like the funeral to go. So far, my last requests:
--An open bar
--Meryl Streep crying in five languages.
--The Chicago Bears carrying my orange and navy casket.
--Madonna, crushed in spirit over my passing but still moving pretty good for 80.