If you had told me last year on the Forth Of July that it wouldn’t be Buddy’s last birthday, I never would have believed you. At fifteen years old, I was sure it was his last.
Gosh was I wrong. To my astonishment, here we are, yet again, celebrating another year with Buddy at my side.
Truth be told, I wasn’t even sure within recent months and weeks for that matter, that Buddy would see another fireworks show. But this past Thursday, once again, Buddy was sprawled out in the bed of my pickup truck waiting for the celebratory display in his honor. Up until just a few years ago, Buddy would lift his head in great pride while the bombs bursted in air and howl. Not because he was celebrating Americas birthday, but rather, I believe because he was convinced the fireworks were for him alone.
These days he only lays comfortably and mute, watching the skies with little care. Spectacular colors reflect off his face as my eyes blur with tears. It’s nothing new really. It’s just another Forth Of July. But this one I certainly never expected. Last year at the parade in Montpelier, Buddy rode shotgun in the Froggy van. He was treated with royalty even a prince wouldn’t expect. Spectators approached the van with too many cookies Buddy could handle. Piled on the seat in front of him, he ate as many as he could.
These are not the Golden Years for Buddy. That was five years ago. These are the platinum years. Possibly even titanium, of course which is known to be indestructible.
The dog days of summer so far haven’t been particularly easy for Buddy. As a senior, he’s even more fastidious than he’s ever been. While his back legs don’t allow him to get around as much these days, this instability has lead to a few falls on the ice-skating rink we call the kitchen floor. Instead of hopping on his two front feet while barking, he does so from the comfort of his bed while his fan blows fresh air at high speed. It takes him ten times longer, but he still manages to make his way down to the river for a drink. On particularly hot days, I’ll carry him to the deeper pool and hold him in the cool current.
These are bittersweet times for me and my dog. And while he may not mince around on his birthday as he has so many years, shredding wrapping paper from his gifts while donning a birthday cap, he will still indulge on a frosty paw or creeme as tradition holds. And while he may not ride shotgun in a parade, he still will take in a fireworks show. We’ve never missed one yet, except that one year it rained and was cancelled. We stopped off at a nearby general store and shared a pint of vanilla in my truck while teaming rain pounded my windshield. One of the very best was the year Buddy sat like a hood ornament on the bow of my sailboat off the Burlington shoreline. It was a perfect night, hot, humid and a sky full of stars. The fireworks were remarkable. I couldn’t hear his howls during the finale but could only see his silhouette reaching his snout high above like a wolf calling for the pack.
This year, for me at least, the Fourth Of July is more than just a day. It’s a time to give thanks, count my blessings and reflect on many past years with Buddy. Anyone who’s been through hell and back with their dog for so many years can certainly relate. Being blessed by time while continuing to build memories is the single greatest gift we’ve been given. This holds true for anyone we’ve loved.
Maybe it will be the next Fourth Of July that will be especially difficult for me. A time of great sadness in many respects, but also be a time to quietly reflect on the impact Buddy has had on shaping my life. After all, he has set strong examples on how to overcome obstacles with great resiliency while practicing loyalty and having a profound purpose during his limited time, even still today.
Maybe next year will be the year I honor Buddy like I’ve said I would so many times; by climbing Camels Hump in the night to watch multiple fireworks shows at once from the summit. But one thing is for sure. I won’t watch them without Buddy. He will be just as he has been for the last sixteen years, at my side.