THE race is on between me and the dog to establish which one of us is losing their faculties at the faster rate.

We are of similar vintage, for as I approach my three score years and ten, she is close to her 11th birthday which makes her 77 in dog years.

I may well be in the lead for the other day, I decided to take her for a swim in the river, as she was getting a bit whiffy.

Despite her advanced years she is still a bonny dog, who often draws admiring glances, and when I saw a young man beaming out at us from a cottage window on the way down to the North Tyne, I gave him a friendly wave

It was only on the way back that I realised the smiling young man was in fact a cut out of Prince William which someone had stuck in their window to mark the VE Day anniversary celebrations.

I thought he looked a bit familiar!

While11 is unremarkable in many breeds, it is heading for the geriatric in German Shepherds and after a lifetime dedicated to barking furiously at anyone or anything coming within 20 yards of Hextol Towers, she is gradually starting to slow down just a little.

The curse of the breed, wonky hips, is finally beginning to manifest itself with grunts and groans whenever she tries to get out of her basket suddenly, and her once elegant walk has taken on the form of a Saturday night drunk weaving his way home from the pub.

Once, nothing moved in the garden without her lunging at it, whether it be bee, butterfly or sparrow, but in her dotage, she can no longer be bothered to chase them away.

Possibly because of the warm and dry weather of the past couple of months, we have had an abundance of birds nesting in the hedges of Hextol Towers this year, notably a ravenous family of blackbirds.

The parents have somehow produced at least two enormous offspring, which we have dubbed Mama Cass and Jabba the Hutt.

They are both substantially larger than their parents, but while they are more than capable of feeding themselves, they simply stand in the garden with their beaks agape, waiting for food to be dropped in by their ceaselessly foraging parents.

The thing is, only Dad is doing the feeding now, presumably as Mam is sitting with her feet up back in the nest, incubating the second clutch of eggs.

Hulking Jabba the Hutt is an avian colossus, who sits within a feet of the dog’s nose like a feathery garden gnome.

Where once she would have torn the intruder asunder and spat out the wishbone, Lexy now just stares at it stonily, even when Dad arrives to shovel yet more mealworms into that ever gaping maw.

Even the postman is not the attack mode trigger he used to be.

As soon as the postie came in the front gate, she used to hurl herself at the back gate like a slavering hell hound, but now she just shrugs her shoulders and sighs a bit louder than is her wont.

And if anyone had the temerity to ring the doorbell, she would enter realms of hysteria never before seen in canine history.

Yet when a delivery man pressed the buzzer last week, she never stirred from her vantage point under the hedge.

We thought she might be losing her hearing, but surreptitiously open a packet of biscuits, or peel a carrot and she will appear panting and nudging from three rooms away.

Heathwise, she seems fine, with wet black nose and healthy appetite, and she can still jump four foot fences when the mood takes her, even though she can’t always get back again,

However, she is starting to get a little confused, for the other day, Mrs Hextol and I were sitting in the sun at the table in the front garden when the dog decided to join us.

However instead of jumping down from the terrace above as she has done for years, or simply coming down the steps, she just jumped straight on to the table, and disappeared behind it with the sort of horrified squeaks she had not emitted since I once tried to remove one of her nipples in the mistaken belief it was a tick.

A major furniture removal exercise was required to extricate her, but she appeared none the worse for taking the tumble.