She came to me as a puppy with hang glider ears, a pink belly spotted with freckles, and enough energy to fuel a rocket booster. Because I thought she looked like white puffy clouds, I named her Buffalo Sky. I know it was summertime when I starting sharing my house and my life with her. And I remember what a big decision it was: How do I know she’s the right dog for me?
My friend, Maggie P, said, “Yeah, but before you know it, she’ll be an old dog, and you’ll wish like crazy that you had 15 more years with her.” She wasn’t looking at me when she said it. It was as casual as tossing a blanket on the couch. But it stuck with me.
I’ve made a lot of mistakes with Buffalo over the years, and she’s never held it against me. To name a few: I put her in a prong collar and hooked her up to a flexie leash to go jogging and teach her heel. I popped the leash to try and teach her not to pull. I went out on the town one night and forgot to shut the backdoor to my unfenced backyard. I kneed her in the chest to try and teach her not to jump on people. I loaded up crackers with hot sauce to try and teach her not to counter surf. And once on a hike in elk country, I cut her loose trusting she had good recall. There’s been a lot of trying on my part but not much teaching.
And this week it struck me: Another mistake I’ve made with her is not celebrating her birthday. She’s like almost every other rescue dog. We don’t know where they came from or which day they were born but like all of us, there’s a day she became part of the world and that’s worth celebrating.
So today is the day. October 20th will be her birthday, and she’s now 9 years old. I have more learning to do, and I hope she’s got lots more living to do.
And in the meantime, I pause to reflect that being a good, responsible dog owner takes some practice.
So the next time I see someone with their dog on a prong collar and a flexie leash, like this gentleman with his pit bull at the park on Sunday, I’ll trust they’re practicing becoming a good dog owner.