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  • Writer's pictureReyna Bradford

A Big Day for a Big Dog (written 2/5/2021)

Updated: Feb 23, 2021

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

really am.

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: and @reynabradfordauthor on Facebook.

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