For our Magical-Dawg, though, we were on a waiting list for two years to get him as a puppy. We not only know his exact day of birth, but also have pictures of him with his mom and littermates before the puppies’ eyes opened.
Take a look at the picture on the right, SQUEEE! That’s Magic at 17 days old.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MAGIC!
That was eleven years ago. Yes, my baby-dog is a senior citizen canine, and has been for some time. Perhaps some folks might look askance (give the “side eye?”) for those of us who celebrate a pet’s birthday. But if it makes you happy, I’ve got no problem with it. Magic doesn’t even know the day is any different, so it’s not for him—it’s for me. A celebration that marks the doggy milestones over the last decade and how that has impacted my life.
All pets make an impact on the people they love, of course. Because so many of us consider pets to be part of the family, it makes sense that we’d include them in anniversary celebrations. In my case, Seren, Karma and Magic are not only my family members but also the inspiration for my life’s work.
MORE THAN A PET…BUT AREN’T THEY ALL?
Magic came into our lives after a long “dog-less” period. My first canine companion inspired me to become a pet writer, and Seren arrived after my first furry muse had been gone several years. She was our only pet for nine years. During that time, I became most known as a “cat writer” despite writing equally in the canine field.
Then Magic arrived and disrupted Seren’s world, and brought wags and laughs into our lives. He also gave a canine face to my nonfiction work—and more than that, Magical-Dawg became the hero dog “Shadow” in my thrillers. Had he not been here, I wonder if my fiction career would have happened?
DOGS AGING GRACEFULLY…OR NOT
For a German Shepherd, an eleventh birthday is a milestone. Large breed dogs don’t age nearly as gracefully as smaller dogs. I have no illusions that we won’t have another decade with him, as we’ve enjoyed with Seren. Yes, I understand. But I don’t have to like it.
In February, I wrote about a health scare with Magic. His mobility became an issue and initially was attributed to arthritis. I’m happy that pain medication from his caring veterinarian has helped relieve the achy joints, but the aging changes continue to progress.
I had feared his symptoms pointed to degenerative myelopathy (DM), a progressive spinal disease of older dogs that ends in rear-end paralysis. You could think of DM as the canine equivalent of ALS. But DNA tests of Magic’s parents performed by his breeder (yes, she’s that responsible!) indicate he should not be susceptible to DM.
You see, his sire tested NORMAL and not affected by DM, but his dam tested as a CARRIER. That means all the pups of that breeding could, at worst, be carriers and would be “highly unlikely” to be affected. Despite that hopeful note, I learned that this past February, one of Magic’s littermates was diagnosed with DM and subsequently euthanized. The research indicates the disease ends in rear end paralysis within 6-12 months of the onset of symptoms.
Yeah. Not cool, at all.
Last February, the veterinarian attributed Magic’s issues to arthritis. He noted that most DM-affected dogs won’t correct a toe-under rear paw positioning. Magic corrected his posture immediately. These affected dogs also show wear on rear claws due to dragging the foot. At the time, Magic showed neither of those issues, only a bit of rear-leg weakness.
His arthritis medication helped enormously to relieve his arthritis pain. But five months later, his rear left paw does drag when he’s tired. The claws on that paw are clearly worn. Positioning that foot in a toe-under position doesn’t prompt him to correct–he just stands there, wobbly and weaving but panting happily. He has more and more difficulty standing, loses his balance easily, and no longer attempts to jump and only rarely runs.
I’m not a veterinarian and can’t diagnose. If genetically it’s unlikely to be DM, I don’t really care what it’s called. I’m grateful to know that DM is not painful, if that’s what this is. And I’m grateful and celebrate each doggy smile.
We’re celebrating his birthday in a big way. Magic doesn’t know it’s his birthday. He only knows he feels good today. He knows his human and fur-family is with him and loves him. His best friend Karma-Kat continues to tease him. Seren continues to hurl cat curses at him. And Magic continues to inspire me with his never-ending happy attitude, his joy at simple things (“Frisbee! Treatz!”), and just being my baby-dawg.
So what’s in store for his birthday celebration? He’s got a new bear-toy. Actually, it’s a purple fuzzy dog-shaped stuffy, but he identifies them all as “bear.”
Magic also got a new tasty chew-bone. He used to love car rides, but can no longer leap into the back seat, but we’ve got a ramp so he can still have the occasional outing. In this hot weather, I think a game of hose-tag is in order, too. Oh, and I think an entire can (maybe a couple of them) of CAT food as garnish for his regular meal. I can see him drooling now…
On second thought, why celebrate one day only as his birthday? Makes more sense to make every day a Magical-Day. Yes, that’s a much better idea!
What about you? Do you celebrate pet birthdays? Enjoy every day you have ‘em. Magical-Dawg sends happy wags and woofs–cuz he’s just that kinda dawg!
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Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!