Although we didn’t know Max’s exact birthdate, we calculated that it must be mid-September. Since Katie’s birthday was September 19th, she graciously suggested that Max could share her special day. Katie (and Max’s) birthday party was to be an afternoon event for family and friends. It was also going to provide a test run for our newest puppet show, The Birthday Bug. This was an early and very primitive version of the show, which involved a number of Pelham marionettes along with a large, robotic Birthday Bug puppet that Hugh had made. The Birthday Bug sported a light bulb in its torso, so that it could illuminate the words, Happy Birthday, at the end of the show. It was the first of Hugh’s trick puppets, and the forerunner of the wonderful Elvis marionette that lit up with LEDs for a much more sophisticated show many years later.
Three days before the party, Max and I went for a long ramble through the woods. He was extremely well behaved, so I hoped that his recent rebellion was over. His tendency for histrionics was still evident, though, when he trod on a stone, cried bitterly and held up his paw for inspection. How he loved to get sympathy! Once we returned home, he sat and watched curiously while I did last minute craft jobs for the show. Then I went shopping to buy party supplies and food. I also bought a present for Max, and Katie wrapped this while Max supervised. He was very interested to see his squeaky toy being encased in wrapping paper.
The party was to be held on the Saturday, even though Katie’s (and Max’s) birthday was on Sunday. Two days before the party, Katie, predictably, became overexcited and started acting up. Unfortunately, Max began to suffer from party-itis too. He also kept disappearing upstairs to inspect his present. The day before the party was particularly hectic. We had to set a treasure hunt, organize games, and move the puppet theatre into the playroom. The girls’ friend, Marcella, came over to help blow up balloons, hang streamers and make the cake. Once the cake was baked and decorated, we scraped the icing off the kitchen walls, set the lights for the show, and called it a night. When we went upstairs to go to bed, Max, a fierce wolf scowl on his face, was guarding his present which had been placed out of reach on top of a filing cabinet. What a job I had getting him to leave it and settle down for the night.
On the day of the party, Katie bounced onto our bed at a disgusting hour and demanded her presents. Max was excited to see her open them; it was as if he knew he was going to get his parcel too. When it was presented to him, he ripped it open without any assistance, played with his toy and sampled his cookies. Now that he had been able to open his present, he was all twinkles and tail wags. Come party time, he was as wild eyed with excitement as any of the children, so much so that I had to shut him in the den with my father during the more boisterous games. However, he was well behaved once we brought him back out, and we were in convulsions watching him during the Memory game. He lay on the carpet amid all the other little bodies, stared at the tray, and wore a frown of concentration that seemed to say: “If I could only write, I could win this game.” Everything the children did, he wanted to do too. It was another case of Monkey see, Monkey do. Later, he sat in the audience and watched the puppet show. He saw all the children off at the end of the party and came along for the ride when I drove my parents to the Skytrain station. When we returned, he flopped in the corner of our bedroom and drifted off into a deep sleep. He was a very tired dog, but his wolf face was smiling again. What was he plotting in his dreams? Mentally, I paraphrased A.A. Milne: “Now I am one, I have just begun!” But for a beginner, he’d certainly had an eventful first year.