Born on the 4th of July

July 2012

In just a few short days America will mark its 236th birthday. The fourth of July calls for us to celebrate our Nations independence. Traditions like parades, fireworks, backyard barbeques, swimming and camping; we do it all. But for me, the holiday takes on an added meaning. It’s Buddy’s birthday.

Oh sure there are those that snicker at folks like me who actually celebrate their pets birthday but I don’t care. From cake and ice cream, drive-in movies, cookouts on the deck and a snooze at my feet under the stars by a late night bonfire down by the river, Buddy’s birthday is never forgotten.

The truth is the day I adopted Buddy, no one at the animal shelter knew the exact day he was born. Considering the fact that he was just ten weeks old, I set his birth month to July and chose the fourth for reasons of posterity. That first summer with Buddy it became evident to me that his actual birth date may have in deed been on the fourth of July.

Let me explain.

It was a hot muggy twilight at the Waterbury Fourth Of July festivities. Buddy was strong and full of vigor just like any other year-old pup; panting and pulling me through the crowd. He was happy to see everybody, sniffing everything from baby strollers to the rear ends of other dogs. We sat on blankets in the back of my pickup parked on the banks of the Winooski River waiting for the fireworks on the other side. Buddy and I shared the home-made strawberry shortcake I ran out of time to enjoy at home. Suddenly, the sound of an older woman jarred me, “Why would you bring a dog to a fireworks show”? she snapped. “Don’t you realize dogs hate fireworks”? Clearly she was aggravated by my inhumane treatment of poor Buddy and continued to stare me down. She was in the right and I was in the wrong, but being caught off guard, I simply didn’t know what to say. Just then, test shots were fired into the sky, relieving the anticipation of the crowd. FLASH, BOOM! And then the sound of a crying baby and a distant car alarm.

I watched Buddy carefully, ready to leave any moment if he were to show signs of distress. Then, without warning, it hit; the magnificent introductory extravaganza with hundreds of fireworks being shot off simultaneously. The night was lit up with blinding color and flashing explosions. All eyes were on the sky. Well, most eyes anyway. The mean old woman was still starring at me with that ugly frown. Furthermore, she was still scolding me! It was almost like a scene from a horror movie, her mouth moving in silence, face reflecting with color. I couldn’t interpret a single word of her lecture, and decided to ignore her completely.

Just then Buddy sat up straight, lifted his muzzle to the bombs bursting in air and did something he had never done; howled. It was a moment I’ll never forget. Gleaming eyes half shut he stood there in the bed of my truck howling with pride while wagging his tale. No panting, no shaking. As a matter of fact, it almost seemed as if he was smiling and that the fireworks were for HIM! I decided right then and there that Buddy’s birthday would in fact be this day, the fourth of July.

So every year, while millions of dogs across the country are consumed with the horrific anxiety of fireworks; panting, drooling, hiding and shredding couch pillows, Buddy is somewhere at my side sharing a blanket at a fireworks display. And I believe that he believes, still, that the crowd is there in his honor.

He has never missed a fireworks show on the Fourth of July, and this year is no different. It will be our fifteenth Fourth of July fireworks show together. Afterwards he’ll lick a vanilla creemee with a candle in it and howl when those around him sing Happy Birthday. And then we’ll head home to bed and call it another year.

It’s said that a dog ages seven years for every year humans do. If that’s true, Buddy is just about ready to turn one hundred and five years old. If you ask me, that’s a lot of candles for a creemee. Maybe this year we’ll share a large.

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