Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Happy Birthday, Cayenne!

March 2nd is the day our family has designated as Cayenne's birthday. It's easy to remember because it's also Sally and my wedding anniversary. More on that later.

The first information that we have about Cayenne is that she was picked up by Animal Control and received by the Whatcom Humane Society on September 26, 1998. She weighed about 40 pounds and had a rope collar, but no identification. She went unclaimed, and so was put up for adoption.

Cayenne didn't attract much attention, in part because she didn't demand it. In retrospect I'm guessing she was pretty much overwhelmed by the entire experience. The most notable aspects of her being were her mismatched eyes and incredibly soft coat.

Though I worked at the shelter during those days, we weren't looking for an animal to adopt, at least not at first. It's hard not to take ALL the animals home. I remember telling Sally about a yellow Lab I really liked, in part because of the similarity to our older dog, Sandy. Sally visited the shelter, but became enamored by the skinny red pup with mismatched eyes instead of the Lab.

We adopted Cayenne on November 13, 1998. I have long felt badly that she spent so much time at the shelter, right under my nose, without my taking her home sooner. Once we got together, Cayenne claimed a considerable share of our attention, and a bigger piece of our hearts. I won't go into the stories today, other than to say that anyone who ever doubts the full consciousness and deep intelligence of non-human critters has really missed out. We've given Cayenne a home, true, but she has provided us with so much more.

Cayenne's ripping and tearing days are behind her, both in regards to her considerable foot speed and capacity for destruction. These days she finds putting weight on all four legs to be a challenge. Frankly, owing to issues with her early care and development, we never expected she would live this long. The dog that once climbed a six-foot gate to get into the living room now struggles to make it up the stairs from the basement. But she's hanging in there.

So here's to Cayenne. We don't know how many more birthdays she'll see, but then, that's true for us all, isn't it? And in the final analysis, the value of life can't be measured by mere quantity, but rather by the quality of our relationships, experiences, and love given and received. By those standards, Cayenne has had quite a run. Quite a run, indeed. Happy birthday, girl.

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