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Teddy’s Tales: A Dog’s First Birthday

What do you do when your dog turns one? “Are you joking?” asks a friend. “It’s a dog! He doesn’t know how old he is. He doesn’t care.” This is from a woman who treats her two-year-old spaniel like a baby, carrying him – in the park, at home, about the shops – when he (she?) ‘needs a cuddle’.
Plenty of people let pet birthdays pass without comment, but the older I get, the more I want milestones – human or otherwise – to be marked. I’m not advocating extravagance, although I do like the style of a friend who recently hired the local pub for her dog’s birthday bash. We were away, but I hear a good time was had by all party-goers, of both the two and four-legged variety.
So what to do for Teddy? My sons had firm views: “He must have presents,” they said. So we bought seven of Teddy’s favourite squeaky balls (one for each of his equivalent dog years) and the boys picked out one of those special, brain-teaser dog toys. We filled it with treats and introduced it to Teddy as instructed. Once he’d sniffed it, pawed it and realized that gratification was not instant, Teddy turned his back and proceeded to ignore it.
My sons campaigned for a doggy playdate rather than a party, but Teddy’s two chums were on their summer hols. Instead he went on two good walks with his favourite humans – us. And we made a birthday rule for the house: if Teddy wanted his favourite game of fetch at any time during the day then, no matter how inconvenient, we had to down tools and play until he’d had enough. Needless to say, Teddy spent a lot longer than usual sliding about the slippery sitting room floor in hot pursuit of a squeaky ball.
Instead of a cake (it would need to be savoury – I’m not sure I can get my head around that one), we had plans to make Teddy a birthday beef casserole but it was 30 degrees on the Big Day and no one, least of all hot Ted, wanted to switch on the oven. Yesterday’s chicken and carrot leftovers, presented alongside a resounding rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’, went down equally well.
Finally, and this was Teddy’s real one-year-old’s right of passage, he had his first proper breed-specific clip. In two hours, Teddy went from shaggy pup to smart, chiseled Miniature Schnauzer, complete with fulsome furnishings: fluffy beard, hovercraft skirt, big boots and all. Judging by the subsequent spring in his step, Teddy approved of his big-boy hairdo, too.

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