On Wednesday afternoon, about 5PM, I decided that Sophie needed a birthday treat.

She’d had a couple birthday treats already: a three mile walk along the RiverWalk in the morning, where we saw nesting ospreys (she did not care), a swimming alligator (she did not care), and a squirrel (she was delighted, but sad that I wouldn’t let her chase it.)

osprey sitting on its nest

If you look for the subtle difference between the top photo and the bottom photo, I’m pretty sure it’s a baby osprey (visible in the first photo, gone in the second). It was a long way away and I wasn’t wearing my glasses, so I was never 100% sure that I could see a baby, but I’m pretty sure that’s what the photos show.

An osprey sitting on its nest

another osprey nest

The other ospreys.

an alligator in the water

The alligator

Also, a couple rounds of ChuckIt out in the park in front of the house, which is a much bigger space for running than the backyard. I don’t usually play with her there, because, sure, she can run farther, but while she’s running, I have to make sure I’m not standing on a fire ant hill. Plus, at the end of the street, two little dogs come out of their house and bark, bark, bark at her. I don’t mind the barking, but I worry when they run out into the road while their owner yells at them from the door. I don’t think it’s going to be my fault if those dogs get hit by a car, but it’s not something I want to witness. Wednesday we’d played there anyway, though, long enough that Sophie collapsed in the cool grass, panting. (We were playing there because of the giant tree branch blocking most of the backyard.)

Still, neither of those activities were particularly out of the ordinary. And it was her birthday! Three years on the planet is an event worth celebrating. So I decided to take her downtown for a pup cup at my favorite coffee/ice cream place. Christina’s out of town with Riker, but I invited Jamie and Greg to join us if they were so inclined. It was a pleasant Wednesday evening, so they both said yes.

On our way, though, Jamie said, “Three years old. That’s really twenty-one in dog years. We should take her out for a beer instead.”

I laughed.

But I was underestimating Sanford’s dog friendliness! Jamie was serious. Instead of going to the coffee shop, we wandered up the street a couple of blocks and went to a brewery with a dog menu. Sophie got meatballs, a “cigar” (lamb jerky) and her very own dog beer (a beer can filled with pizza flavored dog treats.) We sat outside on the patio, enjoying the weather, and celebrated Sophie.

A beer can full of dog treats and a lamb jerky "cigar"

The dog beer. Really it was filled with pizza flavored dog treats.

She was, as always, terrific. She’s a really good restaurant dog these days. Not exactly thrilled when she realizes that we’re not moving — she would much rather be trotting along the sidewalks, sniffing every possible post — but perfectly amenable to just hanging out with the people for a while.

As it’s gotten hotter here, I’ve had to leave her home alone more, but I got a Blink camera so I can watch her while I’m gone, and that’s always fun. She sometimes whimpers a little in the first few minutes, but once she’s resigned to what’s happened, she mostly sits on my bed and stares out the window. Waiting patiently! I think the longest I’ve left her was about six hours and every time I checked in on her, she was in the exact same spot, lying quietly, but with her eyes on the window.

I do wish we were still doing our California dog training, though, just because she liked it so much. Every so often — probably not often enough — I’ll grab a handful of treats to play with her in the evening and she’s always really delighted. Not so much, I think, because she cares about the treats, but she loves the interaction. If I sit on the floor she immediately brings me a toy, and anytime a stranger comes in the house, she first says hello, and then goes and finds them a toy, just in case they might want to play with her. She’s such a sociable girl.

Definitely more mellow at 3 then she was at 2, but also more loving all the time. At 2, she did not particularly want her tummy rubbed; at 3, tummy rubs are an essential part of a good day. (Somewhere between 1.5 and 2.5, she became willing to show me her tummy upon request, although I can’t really remember when — in 2023, I know, but I can’t place it to a month — but now she shows me her tummy without waiting to be asked, a silent request for pets. Still would prefer not to have her paws held, though!)

Once upon a time, I made a scrapbook page about R, listing adjectives about who he was at that moment in time. I wish I had that page now, I’d love to see it and remember what I wrote, but if I had done the same thing for Sophie on birthdays one and two, energetic would have been the first adjective on the list. Sweet would have been close to the top. Curious would probably have been in the top 5. At three, though, energetic is… well, maybe third. I think I’d put curious first, sweet second. Or maybe delightful second.

I’m so grateful for the curious, though. Well, and also for the well-trained, which probably belongs somewhere in that list, too. It probably took me until Monday morning to realize that if she didn’t have such a great recall, she would still have been standing under the tree when it fell. I screamed for her when I ran, “Sophie, Sophie, with me,” and she came immediately, no hesitation at all even though she was curious about what was happening. I would not have liked dying by electric wires, but honestly, I’d probably take that over surviving if Sophie had been crushed. (I’d be dead, so I wouldn’t care. Whereas if Sophie had been crushed, I would have cared immensely.) So I am enormously glad that her curiosity did not win out over her obedience. Maybe that means sweet is first on her adjective list, curious second? But either way, this week would have been a very different week if she wasn’t such a curious girl. I feel so very lucky that she is who she is! For many reasons, not just that I am glad we were both alive to celebrate her birthday.

Sophie Sunshine

Sophie Sunshine, at three years old.