How you have grown!
I remember this cute, little, fluffy pup (with giant paws!) in a cardboard box on my car passenger seat, desperately trying to get out and get into my lap. Now you weigh about 85 pounds, and although you don't exactly fit in my lap, you do whatever you can to lay next to your favorite person, which is lucky, lucky me.
You love your family, especially your new friend Sean who can throw the ball much higher and longer than I can, and who can play with you tirelessly in the backyard until you both come busting into the house desperate for water. You don't quite mind him all the time, yet, but we'll get there.
Every time you come inside you race over to the stairs, hoping that this one time might be the one where one of mom's cats "accidentally" fell down from upstairs. Or maybe you're hoping that you'll catch them sneaking back through the gate after having watched you play through the living room windows.
You love going outside, and if we pick up your collar, you spin in circles with excitement. Knocking anything and anyone over that may be in your path. If we then happen to pick up the car keys as well, it's double the excitement.
With the backseat folded down in my Mazda3, you stand with your front feet between the seats and stick your head out the sunroof. We make many people smile on our way down the road. It's fun to see how we bring some joy to them. You're good at that, sweet Kane. When we go faster, your jowls flap in the wind, and you can only stand it for so long until you simply have to pull your head back inside the car and shake it off. Motorcycles and big trucks get extra attention. The kind of attention where you whip around and bark at them. Small vehicles need not apply.
You love kids, which bodes well we hope. Our neighbor Skyler (2) comes running, screaming your name when he sees you. You stand patiently while being hugged, petted, and having your ears pulled. You sniff the little kids, lick their faces and you're so, so good with them. Just like you are in this picture with your buddy Collin. With most adults you are curious enough to say hello, if mom does so first, but then back to being solo, just like a GSD should be.
We've been taking a few overnight hikes together in the past year, and we hope to do more. You have your own backpack, in which you carry water and your own food. I think that it makes you feel proud to have a job to do. At the campsite, you seem to settle down quickly, more so than at home. Maybe because we wore you out, or maybe because nature calms you just like it does to me. You enjoy sleeping in the tent. Usually you go in and nap for a few minutes on our sleeping bags while we change clothes and get ready. Then you curl up next to us and go to sleep. In the morning you wake up thirsty and lick the condensation off the inside of the tent. Then you lick our faces while we're immobilized by the sleeping bags - the perfect opportunist!
In the past year, I've switched your food from commercial dry food, to grain-free kibble and finally now a raw diet. Although our vet wasn't thrilled, she said she's never seen a healthier and happier looking dog - clear eyes, shiny coat, healthy weight and good demeanor. Whenever it's food time, I let you jump around and bark, simply because I'm excited too that you love your food. A foodie woman should have a foodie dog, it's only right. I remember when you were eating commercial kibble and how you would slowly walk over to the food bowl, and slowly eat half, only to leave the rest. I hope the minor dysplasia that showed up on your x-ray at 2 years old is also helped by all the natural chondroitin and glucosamine you get from chicken backs, leg quarters, turkey necks and rabbits. You have good even muscle development in both hips, so I think we'll be good.
We continue to train with the schutzhund club twice a week; tracking, obedience and protection. You are doing so wonderful at everything, I'm just amazed that we even can. We need to do more tracking, but you already lay down without command at the articles, and your pace is good. Corners are another thing we need to work on, but it will happen. Your heeling is beautiful, you prance next to me and I'm so proud to have you near me showing off. You respond with even more prancing when I smile and we proceed across the field. Walking sits, walking downs, recalls, about turns and groups are no problem at all. We're starting the dumbell work, and it's going well. Positive marker training means you get a treat everytime you do what I ask of you, and you love your treats.
You are very real in protection, and I love that about you. You approach it with an unmatched energy and intensity, barking to get started while we heel out on the field, barking as I ask you to sit after an exercise. Now we just need to harness all that energy into obedience so that you listen to my commands. That's how we'll make the 100s, my boy. My schutzhund friends seem to think you're doing pretty well for a non-working line type of dog, but I secretly think sometimes they're a bit scared of how intense you are. We'll do the BH this spring/summer. Just need to shape your long down more to make sure you stay put. We will get it, I promise. I won't give up on you ever.
You love it when my mom stops by a few times a week and takes you for a walk in the woods. Then you get a treat while she sits on the front porch, enjoying the afternoon sun together. Your favorite thing about my mom are the neck and back massages she gives you. You stick your head between her knees, over and over again, for just a little more.
Every time you place your head on my leg, arm or shoulder, my heart does a funny little skip and I'm reminded again how much you mean to me. I keep asking Sean if you realize just how much I love you, how happy it makes me to reach down and fill my lungs with that sweet doggie-smell that can only be found right behind your fluffy ears. It calms me. Whenever I'm scared or nervous, I think about that, and my love for you fills me and washes away the scariness.
When I see my big bad shepherd stretched out on the ground or floor, belly up for a belly rub, I can't wait to scratch your feel-good spot. You know, the one that makes your right back leg move to some kind of a drum beat. It's right in your right front arm-pit, that spot. I love to tickle the little fur between your feet, watch you pull your feet out of harm's way, sigh and give me the look of "Mo-om, stop!"
I love it when you come running back to me with a toy, how you do an extra leap of joy, while shaking that soft frisbee of yours or the punched-out basketball that my mom gave you. Most of all, I like laying next to you on the green summer grass while you snooze, watching you, resting my head on your shoulder and remembering the little puppy you once were, and now...the most wonderful dog, protector and best friend anyone could wish for.
I will always, always, always love you. Thank you for the joy you bring me every day, you are such a blessing. May we make many more memories together.
Happy birthday, sweet-pea. Yes, you get an extra serving of chicken today.