I never thought I'd live to see the day. I never thought Kola would, either.
Thirteen. For a giant breed, the equivalent of a hundred and something.
Thirteen wonderful, overflowing, hectic, up-and-down, and oh-so-short
Today, she is thirteen years old.
When I got her, she was almost four. A steady, sweet-natured,
people-oriented dog, an exemplary representative of her breed, she came
into my home and into my life with quiet dignity and joy. A big dog with
an even bigger heart.
I had some vague idea, when she arrived, of teaching Kola to pull a cart
for me around the farm. It is, after all, one thing that Newfoundlands
were bred to do. And it would have been not only a fun, bonding
experience for the two of us, but also a truly helpful skill when it
came to moving bales of hay or sacks of grain to wherever they needed to go.
But back then, there were fewer resources for rookies like me who had
never trained a dog for draft work. And the other competition dogs got
busier, and a few more of them arrived, and eventually my faint dreams
for Kola faded into comfortable life together.
Almost four when she joined the family, and I was thinking we'd be
together for another six, maybe seven years. The life expectancy of this
large, loving breed is about ten.
So when we reached that benchmark, I knew we were on borrowed time. When
she turned eleven, I took a deep breath and braced myself. When she
turned twelve, I prepared for the inevitable.
And now she has turned thirteen, and I'm just smiling. And I'm baking
her a cake.
With as many furkids as I have underfoot in this house, we don't make a
big fuss over most birthdays and gotcha days. Somebody always has
something going on as far as a day to remember somehow. But this one is
different. She's earned herself a birthday cake.
It calls for ground turkey, brown rice, frozen spinach, and a few other
ingredients. I might even splurge and add some Pupperoni birthday
candles on top. After all, today is also Cinder's gotcha day. Gem's
birthday is on the seventh, Meg's birthday is on the thirteenth. I told
you there's always something to celebrate around here.
So I'll make the cake, and hug the dog, and remind myself how lucky I
There almost certainly won't be another Kola birthday. She's sleeping
more and finding it harder to get up. She has fallen down a couple of
times. She has the beginning of cataracts. The clock is not on her side.
But I'm not going to think about any of that for right now. Kola lives
in simple, happy expectation of good things, good people, and good food.
She is never afraid of tomorrow. She loves life and family and
friendship. I think we would all do well to take a page out of her play
Happy birthday, Kola.
Reyna is an author, hobby farmer, and dog trainer who lost her sight when she was a toddler. She lives independently in the Kansas Flint Hills. Discover more about her at: www.reynawrites.com and @reynabradfordauthor on Facebook.