I post today because it’s Petey’s birthday. He would have turned 17. He lived to celebrate 15 birthdays, so I don’t feel like we were cheated any. But his day has always been a big deal to me, and that has not changed.
When Petey was a young dog, we celebrated his birthday with ice cream. The Dairy Queen in Oviedo, Florida gave free puppy cups to dogs who accompanied their owners. I’d take him through the drive-thru, and he’d demolish his cup in my back seat, snorting like a pig, his eyes wide. Then, when we got home, he’d promptly throw the ice cream back up on my carpet (as I said in an earlier post, he threw most things back up). Our local Dairy Queen eventually stopped offering puppy cups–apparently, too many customers were taking their dogs only to get free ice cream for themselves–so I started paying for Petey’s ice cream. To see him in all his glory was well worth the dollar.
Petey also got a trip to PetSmart for a new toy on his birthdays. Of course, his favorite thing to do at PetSmart was take a huge dump on their floor. I took both Petey and Ben one year, and we paused for a second when we walked in. When I started to move again, they did not. I looked down to find them both squatting. I just stood there helplessly, no plastic bags on hand, wondering how the heck I was going to take care of this while keeping other people from stepping in it. Before I could worry too much, though, this whole cleaning crew manifested and got to work. A young man brought out these bright yellow pylons with caution signs on them, a wad of paper towels, and a special cleaning solution. Within seconds, the messes were gone. Knowing that this happened regularly with other dogs, I felt like less of a spazzy owner and could pick out Petey’s present with a clear conscience.
Once we got Petey’s toy, we’d rush home, and I’d present it to him while singing “Happy Birthday.” He loved it. He’d dance in front of me, wiggling his new toy in my face for several minutes before settling down somewhere and chewing on it. He knew it was his birthday, and he relished every moment.
As the years passed, making my life busier and gradually limiting Petey’s range of motion, our birthday routines became more and more tame. Once or twice, I actually forgot Petey’s birthday. I’m still ashamed to admit it. September has always been a hectic month for me since I’ve followed an academic schedule for most of my career, and I must have gotten caught up in a new semester. As soon as I realized my negligence–late at night–I created a ruckus apologizing and whipped up a treat of peanut butter and other random dog-friendly food items. He loved it all just the same. For his last few birthdays, we celebrated with Frosty Paws. I’d give them to both dogs, and after devouring his own, Petey would move onto Ben’s bowl. (Ben didn’t really like the ice cream; he just wanted to participate in the celebration.) I still have two cups of Frosty Paws in the freezer from Petey’s last birthday. They’re too old to give our new dogs, but I also can’t bring myself throw them out yet, either.
After Petey died, I wanted to plant some flowers on his birthday to commemorate him. I wanted to paint his name and Petey-like images on a pot and then grow a fall perennial in it. But the idea sounded much better in my head. I had already tried planting some pansies in his honor shortly after his death. Their dark little masks reminded me of his face. But I failed miserably at keeping them. They bloomed for about a week and then shriveled up and didn’t come back. I just figured I didn’t have a green thumb, and the idea of his memorial plants dying broke my heart. So I didn’t try again. This summer, though, I did manage to help Rob keep some pepper plants alive and fruitful. We still have plenty of habaneros and Fresno peppers growing today. Secretly, I call them my Petey peppers. They get full sunshine, just as he liked, and they sit on our front step, where he lounged in the afternoons.