- Katherine Dudley Hoehn
Updated: Mar 19
I dropped Leah off at doggy day care and the cheerful woman at the Hot Paws desk said, “Happy Birthday Leah!”
“Oops, forgot her birthday,” I said, “bad dog Mom.”
They posted her photo and made a big fuss over her. I doubt she noticed; she was playing with her friends and getting lots of exercise. Day care wears her out and gives me time for writing and appointments. She came home exhausted, we took a walk, and she excitedly gobbled her dinner of dry food mixed with a little bit of canned food. She gets the same meal twice a day. She’s happy with what she gets. No party needed.
Leah is a rescue; nobody knows her real birthday. I use her adoption date minus two years, making her now about five.
Five is a good dog age. They still have pep and enthusiasm, but are a bit less daring and she’s learned the rules of the house. She learned quickly, which made me love her more.
In human years she’s 35, near the age of my two sons. They, too, have settled down a bit, are more cautious, confident, and mature. It took them much longer to learn the rules of the house.
When she first arrived, she chewed shoes. This was in some ways my fault. I failed to close the closet door and left shoes in places where they appeared to be for her chewing pleasure. I give her credit for her good taste; two of the three pair were expensive. I bought her chew toys and bones, which I should have done before the shoe incidents, and she never chewed another shoe. I learned to put mine in the closet and shut the door.
Birthdays at my age are markers that you made it another year. There’s no party or celebration. I high-five myself that I’ve stayed healthy, then I set up annual medical appointments and add one when I need to reveal my age. No party hats, cake, or celebrations.
As for dog birthdays, I haven’t ever celebrated Leah’s. Her birthday is a reminder of when and why she came into my life and a chance to reflect on that.
I adopted Leah soon after the passing of Dudley, another sweet rescue dog. At the Nassau Humane Society I looked at an older black lab, but he was not a good fit for me. I believe in adopting because there are so many great dogs who need homes. Designer dogs are not my style.
On the way out of the shelter, a frightened-looking medium-sized ginger girl caught my eye. Her brown eyes looked deep into mine and I couldn’t stop thinking about her. I adopted her the next day. On arriving home, she looked around the room, took in a deep breath, lay on the rug, let out a big sigh, and closed her eyes. Happy birthday Leah.
Soon after, Covid restrictions began, the beaches were closed, and she and I had tons of time to bond. She was great company.
Her birthday changed both our lives in a good way. I forget sometimes how much joy and entertainment she brings. Now that my sons and their families have their own busy lives, we get together less frequently and Leah helps fill in the gaps. She also loves the grandchildren when they visit.
Leah’s patient when I want to finish a pot of coffee or write a bit more before taking a walk. She loves me more than I deserve. Her eyes and metronome tail tell you she’s enthusiastic. If you use the right intonations, you can get her very excited about going to the vet and getting shots.
She protects me by chasing wildlife out of the yard (a few rabbits, squirrels, and opossums have paid the price). No person has ever gotten near the front porch without being announced.
We walk more than 10,000 steps together daily. Walking is social time in my neighborhood where there are many dogs and dog lovers.
I'm not a crazy dog person. I prefer people to dogs, most of the time. Vacations are better without her. I enjoy my days when she’s at daycare. Some mornings I don’t want to take a walk or put stinky dog food in a bowl, but I do. That's life. And I won’t be donning party hats to celebrate her birthday.
Birthdays don’t require a party but are good reminders of how much we appreciate the celebrant; be they dog or human.