Saturday, October 29, 2011

Our Dog's Birthday Party by Sharon O'Donnell

This past week we had a birthday party for our seven-year-old long-haired dachshund. I usually get him some special treats or toys for every birthday, but this year my husband wanted to have an actual party with cake and ice cream and even a birthday meal. He went out and bought the cake, some Porterhouse steaks, and potatoes. Of course, Fenway, our dog, would get his usual dry dog food, but we would complement it with a few small bites of steak and a tiny bit of cake.

Through all of this, I couldn't help but think of all the birthday parties I'd planned and implemented for our three sons over the past 20 years: the Scooby Doo scavenger hunt party (must have been out of my mind to go to all that trouble), the SpiderMan party, tons of Power Ranger parties, the ones at the roller skating rinks, the ones at the baseball hitting facility, the ones at Bullwinkle's play space, the ones at the Putt Putt golf course, and our eleven-year-old's most recent -- a chaotic one at Frankie's, a huge place with laser tag, go-carts, arcade games, etc. Oddly, my husband never expressed an interest in planning any of our sons' parties but suddenly with our dog's seventh birthday, he became the chief party planner. He even invited his mother over to share in the festivities. Of course, I was the one who marinated the steaks, cooked the potatoes, made a casserole, rolls, and tea -- plus cleaned up the house (with the help our our eleven-year-old) because my mother-in-law was coming over. Also went out and bought some treats for Fenway plus some new shampoo and conditioner. Ok, -- so maybe my husband planned it, but I still had to implement quite a bit of it.

We actually set Fenway in a chair beside the table in front of the cake and sang Happy Birthday to him. No, we did not insist that he blow out any candles. So there he was with his front paws up on the table and a tiny piece of cake in front of him. He leaned his head and floppy ears over the table and gobbled the cake down in what seemed like one bite. The frosting stuck to the plate, however, so he then spent the next few minutes licking the plate to get every last morsel that might still be clinging there. I had to admit he was cute.

I realize, though, why my husband hadn't been so interested in having a full-blown birthday party for our dog in years past. Fenway had his first health problems a few months ago, and I think that was at the forefront of my husband's mind. He and Fenway are very close (Fenway guards my husband's belongings when my husband is away and follows him everywhere when he is home). Fenway is very playful and we'd all thought of him still as more of a puppy than an older dog. News Flash: dachshunds are considered 'seniors' when they are 8 or 9 (read that in a book). The dachshund we had when I was growing up lived to be 16 years old -- but he never had any back problems, which dachshunds are prone to. But back in August, Fenway did. One morning, he didn't want to move -- we could tell it was painful to move his back legs. Knowing such back problems can be serious to dachshunds, we went off to the NC State University vet school -- one of the top vet schools in the country -- where they have a small animal clinic. After some xrays, they told us that Fenway did have some disc problems but they didn't do surgery unless the dog was immobile because of how fragile the spine is.

Thus, we've been doing 'conservative therapy' -- which is basically carrying him up and down the stairs inside our house and the small steps outside down to his gated area off our deck. He got better quickly and seems like his old self again -- but we know we have to keep carrying him or the problem could flare again. With all this carrying, Fenway is more spoiled than ever.

But it was this health scare that made my usually not very emotional husband emotional. Thus, the birthday party celebration. Understandable. Still, I couldn't help thinking about all those parties I'd planned for the boys without a sign of interest in helping from my husband. Must be yet another 'guy thing.'



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