Remember how cool balloons seemed when you were a little kid?
So vibrant and bouncy and celebratory. Versatile enough to carry aloft everything from postcards to people. The integral exterior of water bombs. Shape-shifting putty in the hands of creepy clowns. Exceptional conductors of static electricity, and thus excellent destroyers of your mom’s or sister’s hard-fought hairstyle. Colorful symbols in movies. Objects with which to punch people upside the head from a safe distance when attached to long rubber bands.
The fun of balloons deflates as you get older and encounter them in more clinical forms, like angioplasties and catheters. But even when employed to practical ends, balloons can still bring joy.
On the verge of 13 (or 91 in dog years), Reese is well past the age when balloons typically lose their magic. At Reese’s recent checkup, while discussing with his veterinarian the state of his mobility and dysplasia-addled hip, I noted that despite the presence of prudently placed carpets and dog beds, Reese almost always lays on hard floor, then flails like Bambi on ice for five minutes when he wants to move. Our vet recommended a product called Pawz, which she said had proven a wonder with her own aging, arthritic dog.
Weary from waking in the middle of the night to the sound of frantic scrambling, the management ventured to the pet store. Pawz is one of those things that makes you smack yourself on the head and utter a Homer-esque “D’oh!” for not thinking of it first (and makes you wonder why it took so long for someone else to).
Pawz is essentially party-style balloons sized for dogs’ feet. They are made of durable, biodegradable rubber designed to improve traction on hard surfaces and protect dogs’ paws from sand, snow and other irritants. Reese, I was sure, would protest their use. I pictured brief, awkward waddling followed by him collapsing into an epic pout until they were removed.
We slipped them on. He paced tentatively between the living room and kitchen for a few minutes. Then he launched a circuit of the house, bounding from room to room with renewed confidence and abandon.
The balloon boots have proven a blessing, as well as an occasional curse. They have inflated Reese’s self-confidence to dangerous levels. He seems to think that they give him supercanine powers; that in addition to helping him stand on and navigate the noncarpeted floor, the boots have restored his running and leaping abilities.
So we lift him up when he misfires on attempts to clear another dog and an ottoman in order to reach the lap of his human target on the couch. We let him win at keep away with his beloved, grunting-hedgehog toy. We hoist him onto the bed when his “jumps” leave him dangling halfway like a kitten in one of those hang-in-there posters.
I loved popping balloons as a kid, including, on occasion, those that belonged to others; I still do, though in a more figurative sense. But some balloons shouldn’t be burst.