Our pup turned 13 today.
I remember driving with Jon to the farm in Alexandria, Ohio to look at puppy Chesapeake Bay Retrievers in 1998. They were all so cute and playful. But Cy stood out to me. I still don’t know why in particular. He was not more cuddly than the others, or more playful, or more distinguishing. He just felt right to me. A connection between him and I from the start. We purchased him and drove him back to his new home in Columbus. He laid his body on my chest the entire ride home. My first taste of pure motherly love.
We did everything together for the first 7 years of his life. We walked every single day and on the weekends, we ran to the river and Cy got to swim. I threw sticks to him and he excitedly retrieved them all. He loved the water and looked like a dog pharaoh sitting chest-high in the water with his reddish-brown fur shining in the sun. We would run farther down the trail to hit the 6 mile mark and then stop on the way back for another dip in the river. Once home, I would give him a bath outside in the yard and lather him with love and affection. We’d lay on the floor together watching tv or reading the paper. He’d lie his face in my lap and beg me to rub under his chin. He’d re-position himself to allow me to rub his belly. We refused to go out some nights because we couldn’t stand the sight of seeing him lonely at the door. We spoiled him. He deserved it.
I remember being pregnant with Maria and thinking “How can I ever love this baby as much as I love Cy?” When we brought her home from the hospital, we were concerned that Cy would become protective over me and shun Maria. The first few days we watched his every move with her to make sure that he acted friendly and did not growl or nip. To our relief, Cy was protective over Maria and watched her every move. If she began to cry, he trotted into the other room to find us. He laid next to her when she sat in her bouncy seat. And he always helped clean her toes with his big wet tongue. He engaged in the same rituals with Mario after his birth (and Mario tried his patience a lot more by pulling his tail and hitting his head with his favorite toys).
After Maria’s birth, I still walked Cy a good amount around the neighborhood. We didn’t get to the river as much as pre-Maria but the walks around the neighborhood provided good exercise. After Mario came home, there was a lot less time for long walks. We still managed to get walks around the block several times a day but nothing like the mega runs to the river. Not too long after Mario started walking, Cy decided he had enough of walking long distances and when we would take him out on his leash, he would not even walk 50 feet without stopping and wrenching his neck back refusing to walk farther. He would go out back and fetch the stick or run around the house, but he did not want to walk outside. I respected his wishes but it was difficult to let go of that routine with him.
Within the last year, it has been harder for him to rise in the morning and harder for him to manuever steps. At our new house, we can only let him out in the front yard because he can’t handle the narrow and greater number of steps out back. But even though he is having trouble with getting up in the morning and maneuvering steps, he is still the sweetest, gentlest dog ever. He still nuzzles into your side when you get close to him to pet him. He still turns on his back to beg for a tummy rub. He still stares at you with his big brown eyes as if to try to tell you how cool he thinks you are. He still provides comfort when you walk in the door and see him waiting for you. I think this quote sums up our relationships with dogs well: “He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion.”
The kids and I decided that Cy needed a birthday cake and birthday bones to celebrate his big 13th birthday. We bought mini cupcakes at Kroger’s (Maria made sure that we got small vanilla cupcakes because Cy can’t eat chocolate and because Cy would get sick with too much sugar). We invited Maria’s friends over to celebrate. We lit up four cupcakes (one for each kid to blow out) and put bones in two of them. We tried to get Cy to wear a b-day hat but he quickly tore it off and chewed it up (after all, it was a princess pink hat). We sang “Happy Birthday” to him and blew out the candles. Maria took the time to peel off the wrapper from one of the cupcakes to feed to Cy before she ate her cupcake (Mario just ripped into his without any thought to the b-day dog). The cupcakes were devoured in record time and Cy ate what crumbs remained on the floor. Mario fed him the two bones, and the kids ran back upstairs to play fort. Cy and I sat downstairs together looking at the deep blue sky out the window. He looked pleased with his birthday treats and birthday lovin’.