Willow is my proxy. She is far more gregarious, outgoing and friendly than I am. This sometimes comes in handy as a way to force me out of my shell and make human connections while on the road. Once such occasion happened along the banks of the Colorado River in Ehrenburg recently.
Across from the place we were camping, separated by a small tributary of water, sat a small spit of land where some acquaintances we had met at the RTR were camping. We knew they were there and had stopped in to say “hi” when we arrived but didn’t want to intrude on their scene and so headed off to find our own little spot of riverfront. There were enough trees and reeds that we couldn’t see them but we could sometimes hear them. Nothing loud, angry or obnoxious just an occasional word or laugh. Then one afternoon Willow pricked up her ears and soon the sounds of what seemed like a Native American raiding party wafted across the water to us. Full blown whooping and hollering and screaming and laughing. What was going on over there? Willow decided she just had to find out and so, before I even knew what was happening, she had wadded into the water and promptly swam across to go see what all the commotion was about. I was in no mood to go swimming in 50º water and so took the long way around by foot on the access road. It was all of a 10 minute walk. Before I had arrived I could hear squeals of delight through the brush as Willow made her presence known and crashed the War Party.
Once calm was restored I made it known that tomorrow was the day we had worked out and designated as Willow’s birthday. She was going to turn 7 in human years (about 41 in dog years). I proposed that we have the same sort of dog birthday party that our friends (and Willow’s rescuers) in Portland, Oregon have when one of their dogs has a birthday. This is a plain cheeseburger (just meat, bun and cheese – no ketchup, onion, pickle etc) apiece for each dog and some fries as well to share among the pups. Since McDonalds “food” is not fit for human consumption I proposed some pizza for us and a plan was hatched.
The next day, Willow’s actual birthday, at the appointed time I went in search of pizza and a McDonalds in Ehrenburg, Arizona. Before I left though I asked if my Birthday Girl could stay and hang out with her two doggie friends and that was acceptable. I found a little pizza joint and put in my order and then left to find some place that had champagne because what’s a celebration (and how can you have a toast) without champagne? The first two little gas station mini marts were a lost cause. I certainly was not going to spring for Dom Perignon or Veuve Clicquot (which they did not have anyway) but their selection began and ended with André Cold Duck and that is the equivalent of Night Train, Boone’s Farm or Colt 45 in the sparkling wine (not even real champagne) world so…no. I finally found a place that had Korbel which is more than adequate (by then I would have settled for Barefoot Bubbly) and headed back to the pizza joint to pick up the pies and then onwards to the campsite.
Of course, as I am turning into the river access road I remember that, in the extended hunt for non-swill bubbly, I had totally forgotten about the cheeseburgers and was not about to turn back with the hot pizza to find such a lesser “food” source. The dogs would have to settle for some pizza. Too bad, so sad. Let me be the first to tell you that the dogs were more than okay with that decision.
When I arrived back I was met by Willow’s two dog buddies (Amara and Herbie) but my girl did not come to greet me. This is a strange and non-normal occurrence. Minutes later she was found happily napping in one of the vans wearing a purple birthday bandana.
Once she deemed my arrival as worthy of awakening and greeting me did I find out what a fun time was had in my absence. After a vigorous doggie romping session she got to lounge on someone else’s bed and have an extended loving session.
She got treats.
Now that I was back the actual party could begin and she was almost too tired to care! Once the smells of pizza wafted through the campsite and Herbie and Amara deemed that scent worthy of their rapt and insistent attentions did Willow get the idea and join the crowd. The pizza was happily consumed by human and canine alike. The bubbly was toasted. The Traditional Birthday Song was sung. A card had been hand-made by Ally the Lesser and signed by all those in attendance.
Then an unexpected surprise. A Premier performance of a birthday song especially written for the occasion of Willow’s Birthday was sung by “The Two Allys.” Let us graciously say that it is a work in progress and we are expecting it will be completed and polished by Willow’s 8th birthday.
So, Willow (my proxy) and her friendly sense of adventure had forced me to seek out human contact and it worked out better for all concerned. I would have been content to say “Happy Birthday” to her, given her an extended birthday morning belly rub and called it good. The traditional McDonald’s cheeseburger party didn’t happen but that’s okay. Part of that ceremony involves it “raining fries” down from above all over excited, jumping dogs and kitchen floors and since we were camping on sand those would have been some really crunchy fries. We shall consider this the new, alternate dog party agenda and deem it a great success. Our gratitude to all the participants, human and canine alike, for helping make Willow’s transition into “Old Lady Dog” such a joy. Thank You.