As the Parkinson's with which I am afflicted progresses my fall risk has increased significantly.

I have reached the point where I am strongly encouraged to no longer set out on solo walks without leaving a detailed route so that if I should go down, or simply break down, the search party would have some idea of where to begin looking. My other option is to walk with someone, which typically translates into my spouse, Nancy, or my oldest son, Caleb, when he happens to be in town.

On a recent April evening, with Caleb in town to observe Easter, he and I set out for a walk in the "hood." We had gone less than a half block from the Henley hacienda when the voice of a neighbor rang out.

"Taking your dad out for a walk?"

I cannot really tell you specifically why the question annoyed me so much, but it did. One takes their dog out for a walk, not their father. Was I being compared to a senior member of the canine kingdom?

I contemplated a suitable response. Perhaps a middle finger salute was appropriate. Fortunately, I chose instead to respond with a five-finger wave and smile. As I shuffled on down the block I continued to ponder why being likened to a dog, if in fact that was even my neighbor's intent, would trouble me so considering the relationships I have with my "granddogs," one in particular I seem to have much in common with any more.

When my daughter, Amber, married her husband, Shawn, they had an instant family. While neither one of them brought any children into the relationship, both had dogs that they loved every bit as much as if they were an offspring.

Of their three dogs the one I feel a special kinship with these days is a big, black and lovable Lab named Gunny. While I do not know exactly how old Gunny is, suffice to say that the ravages of time are taking a toll on this fine fur-covered fellow.

One of the biggest challenges the old dog faces is at bedtime, when it is time to climb the steps of the two-story house in order to reach the bedroom in which he sleeps. According to Amber, because Gunny's hind legs do not work so well anymore, Amber or Shawn will put a hand on Gunny's backside and give him the boost he needs to successfully reach the second floor.

I thought of Gunny one day last week when I felt a hand of Nancy's on my backside as I slowly climbed the rear steps at the Henley hacienda.

When we were a young couple such a touch might mean: "Looking good there big boy. Play your cards right and you might get lucky tonight."

When we had five children still at home the intent of a pat such as that would have undoubtedly sent a much different message: "I need to get supper cooking before these kids turn into a mob, so let's pick up the pace."

But on this day there was no mistaking that Nancy's intent wasn't sexual or to motivate me to move faster. Her objective was to lend me a helping hand to increase the chances that I would make it safely up the stairs, rather than fall down them.

As I gratefully accepted my bride's assistance up the steps it occurred to me that maybe I really am just another old dog.

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