Birthdays (08/01/07)

Dear Zelda,

My sixtieth birthday is coming up in a couple of months and my friends are planning a party for me. My problem is that I don’t feel like letting everyone know that I am going to turn sixty, especially the folks in my office. How can I cancel my own party?

Secretly Sneakin’ Up on Sixty

Dear Secretly,

I have a story to tell you about a birthday that happened here in my home last year. It was my owner’s sixty-first, and she was approaching it with dread. She worried about getting old. Your sixties, she said, were all about arthritis, wrinkles, forgetfulness, and over-the-hill aches and pains. She chose to negate rather than celebrate, and avoided making any plans for her birthday party. She even went so far as to schedule an out-of-town speech in Miami on her birthday. “If I’m not home…it won’t happen,” she thought. Needless to say, she was only putting off the inevitable.

Then fate stepped in, and three weeks before her birthday, her lesson in life arrived in a big way: she broke her neck in an accident! The doctors who saw the CT scans were incredulous... ninety-five percent of the people who break their C2 & 3 vertebrae as seriously as she did, do not survive, and of those who do survive, most are left as quadriplegics. While my owner lay in her hospital bed, survival and healing were her most important goals. Her friends, family and many of you helped her through this time. All of a sudden, life was all about living! She opened her eyes and the sky was still there to savor. A birthday was something to look forward to, she knew, because she had come so close to not being there to celebrate it. Life was the best birthday present she had ever received! Ask her age today, and she proudly smiles and says “SIXTY-ONE!” (And she’ll keep saying it for a few years...) This year, she plans to celebrate.

From my canine perspective, your question makes me think of a wonderful “Far Side” cartoon that shows a dog riding a unicycle on a circus high wire. He has pedaled out to the middle of the wire where he looks down with a shadow of self-doubt. The line reads: “Suddenly, high above the crowd, Ralph thought, ‘I’m an old dog, and this is a new trick.’” I, too, am an old dog, but like Ralph I’m ready to get off the porch and go take some new chances and learn a few new tricks. My advice is to keep at it; occasionally you’ll look down and think “What am I doing up here?” But the only thing to do is keep pedaling. You’re only as old as you think and feel.

So, “Secretly Sneakin’ Up on Sixty,” my advice is that you stop sneaking, embrace the process, and take a chance on enjoying your sixtieth birthday party in style. Throw your arms around yourself and say “Hallelujah, I have friends, family and the time and health to enjoy them.” Be proud and brag of your age because life is better than good: “LIFE IS GREAT… CELEBRATE!” (Should be a bumper sticker shouldn’t it?)


Dear Zelda,

I have a big problem! I had a litter of puppies about 2 years ago. I want to plan a birthday party but my little girl puppy has grown into a big bitch! She gets aggressive around other dogs, especially other females. Zelda, since you are the ultimate therapist and peacemaker, I know that you will know what to do!


Worried in Wisconsin

Dear Worried,

Peace is definitely prefer-a-bull where puppies (especially overgrown, two-year-old ones) are concerned. It’s a very common problem that we dogs get territorial and bossy, especially when it comes to our homes and our turf. The good news is that there are some excellent short and long-term solutions for you to consider.

Solution number one, the long-term plan, is gradual socialization. It sounds like it might be a little too late for this birthday party, but we dogs need to continually be socialized as we move from ‘puppyhood’ to ‘adult dog-hood.’ It’s a good idea to keep introducing and welcoming new dogs into your home until your pup grows accustomed to and has ‘passaged’ through the program and becomes an adult. Soon she will automatically think… “new pup, new pal” instead of “who’s this bitch?” and will look forward to play dates and parties for new pooches. Even though it’s best to start this process at a young age, old dogs can learn new tricks too! (See the previous answer.) Another tip from one who knows, when bringing a new pal into your home, is to let the dogs meet outside. Give them a chance to sniff and sort out their scents before territory becomes an issue.

Solution number two, which is related and is probably the simplest advice for your problem, is to have the party away from your home. You’ve already stated that your “little girl puppy” has grown into a “big bitch.” At-home birthday parties will definitely bring that out in her, as she will feel the need to maintain her dominance on her own turf. Instead, look around your neighborhood for neutral turf like a park or playground where none of the dogs have been before. You can also check with places like PetCo, PetSmart or other pet stores that might have party rooms to rent. The important factor is that the site is new and neutral for all those party animals you’ve invited.

It sounds like your Little Ms. Bitch could even learn a few things from her birthday party if it’s handled with care and caution. Who knows, she may turn into a real social butterfly! Keep up the custom and try to introduce her to new dogs more regularly and routinely. Eventually she will welcome their visits and will become less aggressive and look forward to those new canine encounters. Have fun, and have a Happy Birthday Party!


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