Wyatt is the only of our dogs whose actual date of birth is known. I receive email reminders of this date from his veterinarian, who also sends birthday cards. The date happens to be shared with the birthday of a close friend, for which Facebook and other digital spies provide a bludgeoning number of notices. His birthday is in the same month as mine (an occasion I assure you I never forget and hold lasting grudges if others do), and his birth date is a palindromic number as well as one of the so-called master numbers. What I’m saying is, the dog’s birthday is pretty easy to remember.
Yet this year, the beginning of Wyatt’s sixth on this planet, I spaced it.
Yes, I know, a dog doesn’t grasp the concept of a birthday. It’s not like we throw a party. In our home, the pinnacle of a canine birthday is usually some canned food added to the dry at dinnertime. But I still felt guilty.
Wyatt did not appear to notice his birthday was missed, though my better half made sure to point out that he protested both breakfast and supper that day instead of just one of them (dog food makers would be wise to run their recipes by huskies) and that he seemed especially pouty that night. Wyatt’s indignation was stoked the day after, when I attempted to provide a happy belated birthday in amends.
The backfire began after dinner, when the dogs were given the rare treat of a rawhide bone. To avoid violence, birthday celebrations and treat times are shared experiences.
The dogs took to their chosen corners of the living room carpet—never on the hard floors, which I can actually clean—and masticated intently. Miles could skeletonize a cow faster than a school of piranha, and his bone vanished in minutes; Reese, who often savors bones, ravaged his in wolflike fashion. By the time the other dogs were finished with their bones, Wyatt had worked just a nub off his.
Miles went for a drink. Reese scoured the rug for remnants. Wyatt took a breather, the bone resting between his forepaws. As I moved to the kitchen, Miles returned and Reese circled the perimeter; Wyatt looked up at me anxiously.
“It’s OK, buddy,” I said, and scratched his head. “No one’s going to take your bone.”
I had not taken a full step before Reese lurched in behind me and snatched the remainder of Wyatt’s bone, which, for a good long while, he refused to consume.
Reese carried the bone to another room; Wyatt followed. Reese took the bone outside; Wyatt followed. Reese brought the bone back to the living room; Wyatt followed.
After between a quarter-hour and 30 minutes of this, with neither dog’s will showing signs of wavering, we tried to appease Wyatt with another treat. He gulped down the fake pig’s ear and promptly resumed his rawhide vigil.
Wyatt bore into Reese with the intense gaze of the righteous wronged seeking vengeance as Reese toted the bone with him throughout the house and chewed it with occasional nonchalance. Wyatt stalked dangerously closer, perhaps taking Thoreau literally: “It is life near the bone where it is sweetest.”
Alas, there would be no justice this day. Wyatt eventually crossed an invisible line, and Reese polished off the bone with cold precision before thoroughly licking his chops in Wyatt’s face.