Today is my son’s birthday. It was also our big yellow lab Angus’s birthday.
The following story was first published in the Los Angeles Times Sunday paper in the Kids’ Reading Room section. It’s the true story of my son’s second grade birthday party. I repost this story each year in honor or my son and Angus.
A Birthday for the Dogs
“MOM, I’m inviting 50 kids to my party.”
“What, Robert?” Mom said. “That’s too many. Do you know 50 kids?”
I sat in the back seat while Mom drove home after school. My eighth birthday was in two weeks.
“There’s my class, plus Cub Scouts, and playgroup.”
“I can’t afford to take 50 kids skating or bowling. And I don’t want 50 kids in my house. What about the city pool? It’s heated, open year-round, and it’s only 50¢ a kid,” Mom said.
“A swim party, that’s cool!” I said.
“I’ll say yes to the party, but no to presents. Fifty presents are too much for one eight-year-old. It’s decadent.”
“What’s decadent?” I asked. Mom used words I didn’t know.
I sat silently and thought I’d be sad with no presents. Then I remembered Angus. Mom got him for me as an early birthday present. We were on a waiting list for two years with Guide Dogs of the Desert. He was being trained as a companion dog for people who couldn’t see. We got him because he had poor hips and couldn’t be a working dog. Angus was big, yellow, and I loved him. We shared the same birthday.
“I have a great idea!”
“What?” Mom asked, glancing at me in her rearview mirror.
“I’ll ask for money for Guide Dogs of the Desert.”
“Ah?” Mom made a weird swallowing noise.
“It’s Angus’s birthday, too.”
In the rearview mirror I watched Mom dab at the corner of her eyes with a tissue, and nod her head in agreement.
Two weeks later, I had a great birthday. Fifty kids came with bathing suits, towels and money. Instead of opening presents after cake, we counted dollars they had stuffed into a large licorice jar decorated with photos of Angus.
Together, we raised more than $1,600 for Guide Dogs. Mom called me a “philanthropist” – whatever that is.
Happy birthday, son! We miss you, Angus!