"It takes a long time to grow young." (Pablo Picasso)
I wasn't there when he was born, but I've been there every birthday since. And although his birthday only comes once a year I am grateful each and every day for his beautiful red head, his smile and generosity of spirit, for Team Duncan, the good people who helped keep him alive, and for Ken for introducing him to our lives.
Is it too much to admit that when the alarm went off this morning he was cuddled up next to me on the bed, an expectant look on his face, as though waiting for me to sing "Happy Birthday" to him, which I did? He got to sleep in while I tended to the morning chores but got up in time for an extra long walk down down The Run to The Glen, where we played some early morning fetch and a roll in the wet grass. The birds were lined up waiting for him, the squirrels ready to scamper and one or two bunnies, their paper-thin ears, golden and barely visible above the grass, were at attention and ready to dart for shelter at the sound of his galloping feet.
When I arrived home from work he was waiting for me at the door, ready to head to Hero's to pick out a new toy.
After we came home, toys and treats in hand, we headed across the street for a long game of fetch as the last of the sunlight slipped from the sky. We played for well over an hour with the park almost entirely to ourselves, no marching band to disturb the peace, no soccer hoards to interrupt our space. It couldn't have been any more perfect.
After we returned home it was time for the traditional birthday cake: raw chicken frosted with rice and drizzled with organic peanut butter, topped with a single candle.
The candle was for me, and as I blew it out I said a blessing: "May you have many, many birthdays to come. May all your days be a celebration of your long life, filled with joy and happiness and good health. And may I be as blessed to have you as my friend in the next life as I have been in this one. Happy birthday, Roo."