By Catherine Natale
Today is my dog’s birthday. She is 13 years old–quite a milestone.
In dog years, she is in her nineties. She is at the final phase of her life–a good life, well traveled. Her hind legs don’t work as well as they used to, and she sometimes gets confused, but she is never one to give in. Athena means Goddess of Love and War; for all accounts, the name fits her to a tee.
Our love story begins…
Discovered in the woods with her mother and siblings and brought to a kill shelter 13 years ago, she did not have much of a chance.
Her crime? Being part wolf.
In the South if a dog has wolf in them, they are killed–no matter how well behaved. She was saved by North Shore Animal League, located in Long Island, NY, a great non-profit charity that goes the extra mile to rescue dogs. That is how we met. You see, I had another dog that died of cancer a few weeks before I adopted Athena. Saddened by the loss, my husband and I one weekend went up with friends to the facility, and there she was–a black dog with big paws; Lab, German Shepard, and wolf mix (9 weeks old) in the bottom cage. I bent down and there I saw two big eyes and her paw pressing up on the door of the cage like Diana Ross from the Supremes “Stop in the Name of Love!”
I asked the attendant to take her out of her cage, but the lady told me she is not ready to be adopted. “She just got here. She has kennel cough, ear mites, and she just got fixed. But we have these puppies on top that have been here longer.”
Athena barked! Yeah, she was taking a stand. Get me outta here!!! “Please take her out,” I said. I held her in my arms and that was it, she had a forever home.
In her younger years, she loved to dive into the East River, hunt for fish at Bear Mountain, and climb hills. Sometimes, though, her diva ways would get the best of her! There was the time she tore up her Halloween costume at a photography studio when I tried to get her picture taken in it. She has jumped out of car windows to catch a bird and even eaten rat poison she found in the garage. Luckily, it was just a little bit, and for her 90 pounds it was not going to be harmful. Athena would put male dogs in their place if they tried to get too friendly, and once they got a taste of her wrath, forget about it. All she really wanted was respect.
She was a wild one, and even failed dog training school. Thank God the lessons were free.
Athena can be loving but very direct and resourceful. If she does not get what she wants, there is hell to pay and for a dog who is 90 pounds, that is not easy to ignore. Some people might see a spoiled, untrained dog, but believe me, she knows when Mama is not pleased. I always felt that she is a born leader, and I shouldn’t try to change her, but embrace her for who she is, a “Good B.” She has taught me lessons about life and is my best friend who no doubt seizes the moment.
My “little” diva is also very smart, and I know what she wants just by looking at her. Oftentimes she will see the family watching TV at night, stand in the middle of the room, and look at everyone to say it is time for the pack to go to sleep.
I almost lost her about two years ago from bloat, and I prayed to God to give me more time with her as I was not ready to say goodbye–He did! Now she is in her senior years, an (old woman) who has traveled the country, flirted with truck drivers, and climbed mountains and trees with no hesitation; her old legs just can’t do it anymore. When I look into her eyes I see a life well traveled, a take-no-prisoners attitude, and one who was not afraid to be herself. After all, if you don’t ask you will not receive.
I can see now that she knows we are a united team, and the bond we have will never be broken. Even when she goes to the rainbow bridge.
Athena, I would not trade you for the world, you have given me so much. So tonight, your birthday dinner is served my “B” while we play the song, “Bad to the Bone.”
Yes, she has her own song, and it’s quite fitting. When she hears the first riffs she gets up and dances. The diva, Athena, will get her steak “well done” with a piece of dog cake to celebrate her life and legend.
Happy Birthday Athena!