I was going to begin this short story by telling you that our Cal-girl will soon be eleven years old. Her birthday is the fifteenth of October. However, being that it is currently the eighteenth of October, and I am just now remembering as I type these very words that her birthday WAS THREE DAYS AGO!, I will have to admit that her eleventh birthday came and went in the most uncelebratory manner. We forgot her birthday.
And now, the story that I am about to tell on her makes me think we really deserved it after all and that she knew exactly what she was doing….
She was the sweetest puppy. And beautiful. Her apricot coloring with the star on her forehead, paws, and the tip of her tail made nearly everyone fall in love with her. I still remember seeing her for the very first time. Keep in mind, I am the animal lover in this marriage, but it was my husband that first fell in love with her. (When I saw the mother of Cali’s litter I clammed up; I could tell she had a good deal of pit-bull in her.) She laid in his lap on her back for nearly forty-five minutes. She was so good-natured, the kind of puppy that didn’t yelp for attention or paw at you for continuous tummy scratches. And she wasn’t a licker. Check, check, check. But something didn’t settle with me about the pit-bull lineage. We thanked the rescue agency workers and left. Sometime during the car ride home, my husband said to me, “Okay, on the count of three, let’s say yes or no.” He said yes, I doubtingly said no. Already, I was beginning to feel the twinge of regret. Her little face, those soft ears, that wonderful temperament! Long story short, we called the agency to tell them we had changed our minds. They, to turn the tables, were now unsure about us. “We just really want to know that you really do want her,” they said. We really did. We supplied the required references and paid all our dues. We held our breath during the home visit. Finally, she was ours.
Years after her puppyhood, people assumed that Cali was still indeed a puppy. She appeared to have a diet consisting of part lamb, part fountain of youth. Slowly, over the last year or two, her age has snuck up on her. Her beautiful apricot coloring has begun to turn white, especially around her muzzle, and she moves at a much slower pace due to hips that are nearly out of socket. (Our last trip to the vet made me cry.) Her hearing is going. Or selective. I vote for the latter. I vote for the latter because our neighbors from Kensington Drive would always rave, absolutely RAVE, about Cali’s obedience. “We would just let her have the run of the yard for awhile and then, when it was time to go in, we’d call her once and she’d come running! We don’t believe you that she doesn’t obey,” they’d say with a serious smile. (Also, we know that her hearing is going because we practically have to yell at her to stop her snoring, which has also gotten worse over the years.)
Call her once? Running? Cali?
Who are we kidding here.
But I digress.
What I am happy to tell you is this: her sense of smell is in wonderful condition. Wonderful.
Late Saturday evening, her birthday mind you, my husband and I were talking about how to help our children with the long car ride to church the following day. We put careful thought into making up a bag for them full of coloring pencils, paper, new library books, and snacks. To be specific, Annie’s bunny-grahams and beef jerky, all neatly placed in three separate ziplock bags to prevent any bickering. I leaned my oversized, open-top tote up against the back of the couch, walked past a sleeping Cal-girl cuddled up in her bed, and climbed contentedly up the stairs, feeling like mother of the year. (smile)
Early the next morning my husband tiptoed downstairs to see if we had any snow that had been forecasted. Back he came with no happy news: No snow. No snacks. “Whatttt?,” I practically whispered-shrieked. But there it was. And there she was. And she knew I knew. Ziplock bag shreds all OVER the floor. One bag of Annie’s bunny-grahams survived but there wasn’t one single hint that beef jerky had even existed.
The elderly have a few extra things going for them. For the most part, they can say things they shouldn’t and do things they shouldn’t and get away with it. I have found that the same is true for my Cal-girl. We told her that she was naughty and left it at that. And, now that I think about it, the poor thing honestly deserved a little bit of jerky and organic bunny-grahams for reaching eleven years without even the slightest acknowledgement from her family.
Did you hear that, Cali?