What’s in a Number?

In my post, The Battle Lines are Drawn, I talked about the importance of data in making decisions. And yet there are limits to what numbers can tell us.

Sometimes, they mislead as much as they inform.

We have all sorts of generalizations about age and can easily fall into the trap of believing these Truths apply to individuals.

Should we?

As a youngster, Pettigrew owned the close up!

I recently discovered that for the past Three Years, Pettigrew has been stuck at 11 years old. At least as far as I was concerned. It was a Shock to learn he is actually 13. 

13! It was as if Pettigrew had aged two years over night and become an Old Dog. 

As an elder statesman, Pettigrew requests that we take his photo from a bit farther away.

Of course, nothing had changed, except in my mind.

Does he still chase after mail carriers and their trucks? Yes!

Does he still enjoy long walks? Yes!

Are his ears now outlined in gray? Yes!

Is this any different than yesterday? No.

So why the sense of disconnect?

It boils down to my own preconceptions of what 13 means for a mid-sized dog.

And that’s true of people too.

One of my colleagues discovered I was just a bit younger than her mother. She was stunned. I didn’t ask, but I imagine it was partly because she viewed me as a peer, whereas if she knew my age, she would’ve felt I belonged to a different generation, her mother’s generation, not her own.

My husband thought a colleague was in her 20s, until he saw a picture of her three teenage children. Clearly, she’s a bit older.

Like all numbers, there’s some utility in knowing a person’s age, but it is far too easy to believe it says more, that it can be used as a window into understanding the person, or the dog, as the case may be.

Pettigrew, I owe you an apology, your spirit is ageless and all your own. 

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