Today is Riley's birthday. Or maybe it was yesterday. Or tomorrow, or Sunday or, possibly, last Wednesday.
Nobody really knows. We know that Boscoe was born on the Fourth of July, 1995. But Riley? We got him from the pound in Forest Lake, Minn., in January of 2002. All we know is that he was about three and a half months old then, which we figure puts his birthday right around now.
When we are feeling sentimental, we say that he was born on Oct. 14, 2001--the day Toby died.
This fanciful thought would hold more credibility if the two dogs were similar in any way other than four legs and a tail, but they're not.
Toby was passionate about chasing and retrieving tennis balls. Sometimes when I was working at my computer, I'd sense a presence in the room and look around and there he was, sitting quietly about six feet away, watching me patiently. Behind me, on the chair seat, was a tennis ball that he had sneaked up and set there, for me to grab and throw. He would have waited all afternoon without making a sound.
Riley has a shorter attention span and cares nothing for tennis balls, or for retrieving. His passion is running flat-out while holding a puffy toy in his mouth. He wants to chase and be chased.
Toby adored me and wanted to be with me constantly.
Riley can pretty much take me or leave me. He needs his space, and when we're all in the living room together he prefers to go out in the hall or even upstairs. He is Greta Garbo.
Toby had long blond hair; Riley is the first short-haired dog I've owned. He's not built for beauty; he's built for convenience and speed.
Toby loved to go in the car. Riley--well, you know. He hates it. Gets nervous as a cat.
So even if Riley was born on the day Toby died, nobody can pretend that any part of Toby's spirit somehow mystically entered Riley. And, in any case, nobody really knows. So instead of a birthday celebration, he gets a birthweek celebration.
The celebrating is fairly muted. We don't bake cakes for our dogs, or give them presents, or even sing to them. No balloons. (And Riley is afraid of balloons.) What they get is: special attention.
On Wednesday night, while Boscoe was in his fluffy dog bed, half-dozing and languidly mouthing a fleece rabbit, Doug took his dinner plate out onto the back porch and quietly called for Riley. He reports that Riley's eyes got huge as Doug set the plate down (spaghetti sauce) and quickly glanced over his shoulder at the door before bending his head and getting to it.
Last night, I did the same with my stew bowl. Again with the eyes big in wonder.
Tonight? Who knows? An extra walk? (Unless it's snowing.) Another dinner plate? Two milkbones after dinner? Or maybe I'll toss him a puffy toy and chase him around the tree in the dark.
Happy birthday, Riley. You're oblivious to the importance of the day/week, but we're not.
1 hour ago