September 17, 2019

There are two great days in a person’s life – the day we are born and the day we discover why.

-William Barclay


Waldo is one year old (August 25, 2019)! Of course, that reflects the fact that the Earth has gone around the Sun once since he was born. It doesn’t reflect his level of maturity, compared to human maturity. The rule of thumb for conversion of “human-years” to “dog-years” is to multiply by seven. But in fact, the conversion is nonlinear and dogs mature much more in the first year than humans do in the first seven years. A more accurate conversion for the first celestial year of a dog’s life is that it is comparable to about fifteen years of a human’s life. That explains a lot. Waldo acts like a damned teenager. He demands independence, has poor insight into the consequences of his actions, loves mischief and is always, always testing his boundaries. The only human teenage thing he doesn’t have is zits. Well, okay, he also doesn’t have an insatiable desire for a driver’s license, so I guess that’s not the only teenage thing he doesn’t have, but still, he is a “teenage” dog.

We celebrate Waldo’s birthday by playing catch with his tennis balls and playing tug-of-war with his ropes. The tug-of-war lasts until I tire of it, then I bring out the tennis balls and throw one for him. As I’ve mentioned before, his idea of fetch is more like keep-away and I’m trying to get him to play my way which is so much less work for me. I throw one of the balls and he runs after it – he’s all swirling tail and flailing legs as it bounces around and his head jabs at it when it gets close. Once he has it, he turns to face me and I say, “Bring it here.” This, he ignores and he stares at me with a why-in-the-world-would-I-do-that? look. I then bounce another tennis ball and tell him, “Drop it.” As soon as he does, I throw the ball I have and he lunges after it. This we repeat until he gets to the point that he gets the ball and he drops it without my saying anything, so I’ll throw the one I have. Nothing I say will make him bring the ball close to me before he drops it. Not yet. I throw my ball, he clearly enjoys charging after it, and I collect the one he drops. Finally, he falls over sideways, lays down panting and rests. This lasts for about 30 seconds or so and then he is ready to go again. He’s having a blast. He wasn’t born to fetch, but I haven’t given up hope yet that he will eventually agree to it.

After our playtime, we go to the rail-trail and do what has become our usual daily 4.5 mile walk. Waldo takes off to the end of the leash and pretty much ignores me, except for an occasional glance back to make sure I’m still there, as he goes about his exploration of the natural world. We’ve been down this same path a gazillion times, but each time, it’s different – you can’t walk the same trail twice. I can attest to that and Waldo seems to agree as he sniffs and licks his way along as if it was all for the first time.

We return home and, in the evening, we have dinner and I give him a cup of doggie ice cream. He’s never had anything so cold to eat except snow. He seems a little put off by the coldness until he decides, “Hey, this stuff is good!” and then he laps it up without pause until it’s gone.   We go out for one final lap around the property and then it’s time for bed.

That was how we celebrated Waldo’s birthday. I don’t know why I wanted to celebrate it, I don’t have birthdays anymore – that’s how you get old (I gave all mine to my granddaughter Emily). And I don’t know why I’m interested in calibrating Waldo years to human years. I guess the celebration is a way of embracing how Waldo is important to me and my life. I suppose the calibration is a way of providing a yardstick to Waldo’s life that helps me understand where he is in his life’s journey.

All I know for sure is that Waldo and I had a wonderful day.

At the trainer:
“The ball is over there!”

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