Our home already has two examples of great physical endurance, and I hope to become the third.
First of all, we have our beagle, Buster. On June 11 he will celebrate his fourteenth birthday. He was our first "furbaby", acquired as soon as he was weaned, as a birthday gift to me from my husband. Beagles are known for their tenacity, and I have blogged before about my "inner beagle" as a symbol of endurance. Beagles are also known for their merry faces and dispositions, and for their rich, distinctive voices (more attributes worth trying to emulate).
The average lifespan of a beagle is 11-15 years, so 14-year-old Buster is technically an old man. It's amazing that he has made it this far, because he is not exactly in peak physical condition. He is fat and has had a worsening heart condition for years. He has had a couple of surgeries to remove tumors. He has chronic problems with his teeth, and often has to have several removed when he has his regular checkups. He has allergies, he's going deaf, and he has joint problems. All combined, one would expect him to be hugging the early side of the bell curve, but instead he remains a vigorous and cheerful companion living on borrowed time.
And then we have Nemo the betta fish. Nemo was a Christmas gift to our son in December 2004. We bought him at a kiosk at the mall, where they sold betta fish in cool glass block "fishbowls". We were told that this fish would be easy to maintain, which was a good attribute for a creature placed under the care of a three-year-old boy. They told us to feed him/her/it a couple of tiny pellets a day (or whenever - if we miss a few days it won't matter), and then when the water gets cloudy (maybe once a month), just empty out half the bowl and refill with spring water. That's it.
The bowl was cleaned for the first time yesterday - more than 17 months after we brought Nemo home. I swear that this fish must eat its own poop. The water has remained crystal clear since the day we brought Nemo home, and the only reason we finally changed the water and cleaned the bowl was because Nemo (a vibrant red fish) started to change color, and we could see some excess food building up in the gravel.
Unlike the 28-cent Walmart goldfish (also purchased in December 2004 but died two weeks later - you get what you pay for), the average lifespan of a betta fish is anywhere from 1-3 years, and the average age of a betta fish in a store is six months. So we assume Nemo is almost two years old. Once again, we have a pet who is enjoying an uncharacteristically long life under their circumstances (I mean, come on - the poop-eating fish living in the same water for well over a year, still alive and feisty at an age when many betta fish have been flushed into the next life).
I swear that there are times when Buster and I look at each other as if to say, "who's going first, Short-timer, you or me?" Same thing when I look at Nemo. None of us has statistics on our side. We have to find our own staying power. I think faith and hope and stubbornness have kept me going so far. Maybe Buster's staying power comes from his merry disposition and the free use of his powerful voice. And maybe Nemo just has (excuse the expression) a high tolerance for crap. Maybe there are lessons to be learned from these tenacious creatures, so that I can join their ranks and push the upper limits of my lifespan.