Written by David Walters
Illustrated by Meetu Paul
Most dogs don’t get to celebrate their birthday, but then, Wire Dog isn’t like most ordinary dogs. So, when Ellen realized that Wire Dog was one year old, she decided to have a birthday party.
The first thing she needed to decide was what a dog would like to do for a birthday party. She thought of some birthday parties she had attended where kids wear party hats, but she didn’t think Wire Dog would enjoy wearing a hat. Then she thought of party games like “Spin the Bottle.” Wire Dog would find it difficult to spin anything with his paws and probably wouldn’t understand what to do when the bottle points at someone in the circle. Because Wire Dog has a tail, Ellen thought he might not like to play “Pin the Tail on the Donkey.” And even if Wire Dog might like to eat cake and ice cream, Ellen knew sweets like that were not good for dogs. So, Ellen tried to imagine some new and different things that a dog might like to do for his own birthday party. Ellen had to stop thinking like a child and try thinking like a dog. Her mother explained that trying to think like someone else thinks, or trying to feel like they feel, is called having “empathy” for others.
So, Ellen sat down on the steps beside her dog and began to think. “What would a dog like to do at a party?” she wondered. Ellen put her chin in her hands and thought for a long time.
Finally she raised her head and said, “I know what we could do. Dogs like bones, so we could play ‘find the bone.’ It would be a game where Wire Dog would smell a bone. Then we would hide it somewhere in the yard, while Wire Dog hides his eyes. Then Wire Dog will go sniffing around the yard until he finds it.”
Ellen thought again and came up with a few more ideas. One was to play a game called “Man’s Best Friend,” where Mom, Dad, Ellen and her brother would all kneel on the grass in a big circle with Wire Dog in the middle. On a given signal they would all begin to call the dog, and of course, the winner is the person that Wire Dog would choose to obey. Another would be a kind of relay called “Fetch the Paper.” In this game several newspapers would be rolled up, fastened with an elastic band, and placed at the far end of the yard. On a signal, Wire Dog would run down, grab a paper in his mouth and run it back to the person waiting on the other side of the lawn. Then Wire Dog would run and get the next rolled up newspaper and return it to the person waiting again. If more than one dog was invited to the party, this would be a fun race. If Wire Dog was the only one, then he would just be racing against himself for his personal best time.
When Ellen had thought of enough games, she decided to tell Wire Dog all about her ideas for the party.
As they sat together on the porch, Ellen explained everything they would do at the party. Ellen thought everything sounded pretty exciting, but Wire Dog just looked at her like he didn’t know what she was talking about. That made Ellen wonder if dogs are able to think about the future and make plans for things they would like to do.
“I wonder,” thought Ellen. “Oh well,” she said to her dog. “I’m sure you will like your birthday party.”
When the day for the birthday party finally arrived, Ellen was happy and excited to get things started, but Wire Dog did not seem to understand anything at all. He acted like it was the same as any other day. Ellen thought he might understand better once the games were started. But the games did not go as well as she thought they would either. When they tried to play “Hide the Bone,” Wire Dog would not close his eyes. And his nose was so good that he could follow the path straight to the bone every time, no matter where they hid it.
When they tried to play “Man’s Best Friend,” Wire Dog always came to Ellen no matter how hard the other people tried to coax him. And when they tried to play “Fetch the Paper,” Wire Dog could not seem to understand how the game was supposed to work. When Ellen said “Go,” Wire Dog ran the wrong way. When she showed him the pile of rolled up papers and told him to carry them back to the start line, he just looked at her with a puzzled expression on his face. When she put one in his mouth he trotted around the yard, then brought it back and dropped it in front of her, hoping she would throw it because Ellen played that kind of throwing game with Wire Dog almost every day.
Ellen was very disappointed. She was trying to make his birthday party games different and special, but the party was not nearly as exciting and fun as she had imagined it would be. Ellen sat down on the steps and put her chin in her hands. Wire Dog came and sat down beside her. He could tell that she was sad, but didn’t know why. Everything seemed okay to him; and she seemed so happy just a few minutes before. He wondered if he had done something wrong to upset her. He would never try to upset her on purpose. Wire Dog knew he made mistakes and he often had a hard time understanding people, but he would never try to hurt someone’s feelings intentionally.
So Wire Dog also put his own chin on his paws, and the two friends sat together on the steps with a sad look on their face.
After a while, Ellen’s mother came out of the house carrying a dish of Wire Dog’s favourite dog food. In the center of the food was one little birthday candle burning brightly. Wire Dog barked with excitement when he saw the food, but the burning candle frightened him enough that he would not approach the dish when it was set down in front of him. Ellen laughed and said, “Make a wish, Wire Dog, and I will blow out the candle for you.” Wire Dog looked at Ellen and tilted his head. And when it looked like he had finished making a wish, Ellen blew out the candle.
When the candle was out, Wire Dog cautiously approached the dish and smelled the candle. Ellen laughed again and pulled out the tiny candle. Then Wire Dog dove into his food and quickly ate it up. Then everyone laughed and Mother said, “I guess Wire Dog doesn’t need anything special on his birthday to be happy. All he needs is a family that loves him and a friend that cares about him.