This July 4th was my first without Buddy on his birthday. And for those of you that knew him, you knew he thought 4th of July fireworks were solely for him. So this year, it seemed only appropriate to return to our favorite mountain in honor and tribute to his life. And while it may be my first trek to the summit of Camel’s Hump on his birthday without him, it most surely won’t be my last. I made my way up Vermont’s third highest peak at a painstakingly slow pace. My only race was against that of darkness. I made it above the treeline just in time for a spectacular sunset. Sitting on top of such a mountain surrounded by nightfall was somewhat surreal as I watched the last of the orange glow leave the rockface and pine trees below. One by one, the dark skies below lit up with countless fireworks shows as far as my eyes could see. If I had to guess, there must have been at least fifty. A steady and powerful wind penetrated my core as I imagined my dog at my side just as he had been for the last sixteen years, howling in delight. I found myself consumed with firsts and lasts of my beloved Buddy.
I will never forget the first time I layed eyes on my dog or the first time I held him in my arms.
The first day I took him home. That first drive in the car and that first wet kiss. The first whiff of puppy breath. First trip to the vet. His first collar. First Frisbee. First chew toy. First tick. First bark. First howl. First pant. First boat ride, first life jacket and first swim. First hike. First cremee. First Frosty Paw. First pair of shoes chewed. First piddle of the floor. The first time lost and first time found. The first time sledding. The first time camping and the first campfire. First Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving. The first skunk. The first bath. The first road trip. The first time on the air. The first nail clipping. First dish. First bed. First scolding. The first scare. The first scratch. The first cuddle. The first nap. The first snore at the first home. The first night under the stars. First thunderstorm. First chipmunk and first groundhog. The first time dressed in a tutu. The first time as a princess. The first time with painted nails and the first chocolate truffle cake that was vomited all over the floor. The first time meeting LuLu and of course the first trip up Camels Hump. Of course I’ll never forget the first fireworks on the first birthday that first 4th of July.
If life is bittersweet, than firsts must be followed eventually by lasts. And just as the countless firsts, I will forget not a single last.
The last scare during the last trip to the vet. Buying the last bag of dog food. The last bark, which I heard just last night. The last howl and last cry. I still have his last chew toy, last life jacket and last dish from his last meal. I can still smell him on his last bed. His last Thanksgiving, last Easter and last Christmas. The last time lost and the last time found. The last night camping under the stars by the last campfire. The last trip up Camel’s Hump. The last piddle on the floor. Last bath. Last cremee. Last swim. Last boat ride. The last road trip. The last time on the air. Last walk around the yard. Last greeting when I came home. Last cuddle on the couch. Last Frosty Paw on his last night. The last nap with me of the floor of his last home. His last hour of his last day. The last stare into his eyes. His last moment with LuLu . The last whiff of his breath as I gave him his last kiss just before his last breath.
I will never forget the last time I layed eyes on my dog or the last time I held him in my arms.
I spent the night on the summit in my down sleeping bag huddled under an outcrop near where some of Buddy’s ashes were spread. It was the ultimate birthday celebration for Buddy. After all, how many dogs are honored with fifty fireworks shows at once?
I’m sure Buddy figured it must have cost me a small fortune.