William's actual birthday is unknown to me, as is his breed mix, because he had been a stray when I adopted him. We've always celebrated his birthday on March 11, and Monday after next, we will celebrate his fifteenth birthday. A couple of years ago, in the week prior to William's special day, I shared five stories of our life together. When I suggested to someone that I might do it again this year, I was told that since William was achieving the esteemed age of 15, worthy of note for a big dog, he deserved to have fifteen stories told about him to celebrate his birthday. We're a day late getting started, but with our readers' kind indulgence, here's the first one.
William had a black mark on his record when I adopted him. The Lancaster County Humane League, the shelter where I found him, subjects dogs in their care to a number of tests to evaluate their temperament, and William had failed one of them. This was his downfall: he had growled when a chew toy was offered and then snatched away. Because of this, he was not approved for adoption by a family with small children. This little character flaw didn't bother me, of course, but remembering it struck terror into my heart the first time I took William for a walk here in Hudson.
It was summertime--August 1999. On the morning after we'd arrived home together for the first time, William and I were heading out on our first walk in Hudson. As we approached Third Street, a group of six or seven children--all four- or five-year-olds--came running toward us, eager to pet the dog. Remembering William's alleged temperament defect, I held my breath. In seconds, the whole disastrous scenario played out in my fevered imagination--growling and snapping, torn flesh, children screaming, cursing parents appearing from nowhere to castigate me. My words of caution about approaching an unfamiliar dog went unheeded as the children crowded around William, petting him from all directions. One child even threw his arms around William's neck and held his face close to William's muzzle. As I watched with dread and terror, William turned his face toward the child's face and gave him a big sloppy dog kiss.
William had been subjected to Hudson's own test of his temperament and had passed with flying colors.