February 09, 2003

Dog Years

image copyright Fred First


You turn 28 today. At least in dog years. We heard about you when you were still tussling with nine other brothers and sisters, tearing up poopy newspaper that lined your first home. You were known as "the stoutest one of the bunch", and we said "We want THAT BIG ONE!" A week later, I was ready to take you back and try out one of your smaller, smarter siblings instead. You were so timid and dumb then. You acted as if you had been abducted to another star and didn't know how to do even the simplest things on your new planet. I thought maybe you were autistic. Frankly, I held little hope that you would ever, someday, have a personality of any kind. Yes, I admit I was wrong about that.

I've never been around a dog quite as much as I've been around you what with our odd lifestyle since you joined us. Do you remember, you even went with me in the truck on home-health visits, back when we lived on Walnut Knob and you were so small you couldn't begin to see anything from the truck but sky out the windows? Now you perch there beside me, tall and strong, your head almost touching the top of the cab in the truck. You look so regal and intelligent, and I'm proud to have you as a co-pilot, buddy. But do you think you could keep your wet nose off the windshield? Just a suggestion.

There were the gangly teenage years when you and I went to school. Well, yes, I was a little disappointed that we only went to six 'obedience sessions' and made just average grades. But you learned everything you needed to know. You learned to SIT and to STAY. And you learned that I, Ann and I, have the final word and are the leaders of your tiny devoted pack. And you learned that in our insistence of obedience, we would only disapprove and scold, we would not harm you. You showed us that it was our approval that mattered more than anything else in your world, and to have that, you could learn far more than we ever imagined.

You have never chewed up a single thing in our home or 'had a puppy accident' except for that one time when something must have scared the, er, puppy chow out of you while we were away. Our friends comment on what a non-aggressive pup you are, belying your massive size and obvious strength. Many times you don't even bark when strangers pull up in the driveway. You know, we've talked about it: you do have sort of a sheltered, home-schooled naivete about you and frankly, I wish you were a bit more like your predecessor, Zachary, who put the fear of God into insurance salesmen, and more than one Jehovah's witness who made the mistake of driving into our yard back long ago. On the other hand, it scares you to death when anything the least bit novel appears; like the time you freaked because I left the hatch up on the Suburu and you were ready to wrestle it to the ground and subdue it. Now that must have been embarrasing for you. I know it was for me.

It was wonderful to see you running full out in the snow yesterday, to see your agility and strength, and especially your innocent joy. Somehow you seem to understand that you own this wonderful place, and these times, with us, and it is a blessing beyond what we deserve. You know this piece of land and sky well, and your racing around the pasture throwing up a cloud of powery snow was like a victory lap in celebration of your fourth year on this planet. And that is what all my crazy yahoos were about yesterday there up the valley. It was your fourth birthday party and I was the noise-maker!

We've been through some tough times in the human world together recently. And there will be more of them. Just wanted you to know that, when those times come, there is nothing more comforting to me than your big 'ol head nudging its way under my hand, with no motive or intention other than to be close, to be truly each other, and to say "let's grow old together".

Happy Birthday, Puppy Pal.

Posted by fred1st at February 9, 2003 07:04 AM | TrackBack

That's so nice...

Posted by: Dave at February 9, 2003 09:15 AM

Since Buster can't talk, allow me...

"Take it easy on the brakes, please, so I won't hit my nose on the windshield so often."

There ya go, Buster. Glad to help.

Happy birthday!

Posted by: Jim Calloway (aka JC South) at February 9, 2003 11:49 AM

Roxie says to tell Buster "Happy Birthday". She would do it herself, but I won't let her muddy paws near the keyboard...

Posted by: ron at February 9, 2003 11:58 AM

So my "little black brother" has suddenly become older than I am. Next year he'll be even older than Holli. Fascinating thing about dog years. Now I am the babe of the family again. I will expect the due special treatment.
Happy Birthday, old boy, you dumb old beautiful brute.
Snowing here too, Papa. Goes to 25 below again next week. Keep warm, and no pooping in the floor, either of you...

Posted by: Nate at February 9, 2003 01:24 PM

Oh, how lovely... and you know, I just (today!) brought home my new four-legged companion, a seven-month old long-haired brindle Japanese Akita who was born and bred just over the ridge from you, in Check, VA. He's a mellow boy, too. Must be something about Floyd County...

Posted by: hanne at February 9, 2003 08:48 PM

That was so beautiful to read. Many Happy Returns. The other day standing at the front door with my aged black lab, I watched a young gangly pre-teen puppy walk by. I saw again that "regal" quality in the profile - sometimes of course they need to grow into it! (BTW The Jack Russell turned "49" on the 8th - but she's a different fish altogether!)

Posted by: boynton at February 9, 2003 11:12 PM

Now I want a dog.

Awwwwwwwwww. Happy Birthday, Buster!

Posted by: Pascale Soleil at February 11, 2003 12:14 AM

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