Congratulations Alex!

Congratulations Alex!

Three years ago this month my friend Alex moved in here, the latest – and greatest – in a 15+ year string of superb renters. Of course you can always forecast quality potential renters by interviewing their pets – it’s the little known secret of finding great renters. Alex brought with her the lovely and graceful Roux – her beautiful German Shepherd – and the handsome and outgoing Kite – her wonderful cat. Alex has a degree in biology and was beginning her studies to be a veterinary technician. Yesterday she passed her boards! Congratulations!

In the meantime, my great friend Lou turned 75 a few weeks ago – and we haven’t properly celebrated. Today was a perfect opportunity – a joint birthday/graduation celebration. I was the most fortunate of all – I just got to hang around and enjoy the fun! And of course there were four great dogs and two fantastic cats involved in the celebration.

My friend Chanin lives down the street with her husband Chris and their four great kids. Chanin is, as you will see, a talented photographer. So I enlisted her for our graduation/birthday photo shoot. Except for the indoor shots of Lou giving cheese to the dogs and the little movie of Ivory displaying his trademark enthusiasm by the back gate, she took all the pictures.

Since this blog post is about celebration, I will open with a video of celebration made flesh: this is Ivory, at seventeen years old. It’s astonishing. He obviously chose his parents well. That plus two river hikes every week for a decade and a half.

Ivory celebrates

Next is Lou sharing cheese – a favorite food of virtually every canine – with my pack. By the looks on their faces you’d think they never ate. Even Dash (my orange cat) is coming over to find out what’s so interesting. They don’t act this way around me – even when I do have cheese. I think perhaps they’re more interested in Lou.

Luigi, a.k.a. "The Big Cheese"

Chanin arrived a few minutes later and took pictures of Lou and me in the front yard. I’m wearing my threadbare VCU sweatshirt; I’m still celebrating our unlikely run through the 2011 NCAA tournament bracket. Only 8 teams left of the original 68 – and my alma mater is one of them! When we knock off Kansas tomorrow afternoon we’re in the Final Four! Whatever the outcome, I’m proud we’ve made it this far for the first time in VCU’s history. In addition to my ratty sweatshirt I’m wearing my chlorine hairstyle after swimming two miles to begin today’s celebration.

Belated birthday celebration

Then we brought the dogs out. Ivory, true to his nature, is trying to be as close to our guest as possible. Mackey wants to give Lou a kiss. Roux’s a little scrunched up there in front of me; sorry sweetheart. Max is in the background. True to his nature, he’s looking for something else to do.

Jay and Lou with The Pack in the front yard

Alex arrived a few minutes later to continue the celebration. Roux was, as always, very happy to see her. As were the rest of the animals. Mackey is hiding behind me and Max is getting into the action a bit. Finally. Ivory is looking thoughtful. He looks that way a lot.

Alex, Jay, Roux, Mackey, Max, Ivory

We wrapped up with my favorite image of the day. Lou on the left and Alex between us. Ivory and Roux looking off into the distance. Or perhaps there was a squirrel in the front yard. Mackey is practically invisible between Alex and me. Max, finally, as we’re almost done, is beginning to pay attention.

The birthday boy, the graduate, 4 great dogs, 1 person along for the fun!!!

After this we were off to see Alex’s friends and have a snack at Bear Creek Coffee. And, to put all this in perspective, the video of Ivory at the top of this page was Ivory’s greeting after we got home! He was involved in this demanding photo shoot all afternoon and still had that kind of energy! He is so my role model.

Congratulations Alex, Happy Birthday Lou, and thanks to Chanin for the great pictures! And thanks to the dogs and cats for cooperating so well – perfect for celebrating Alex’s successful completion of Veterinary Technician school!

About Jay McLaughlin

I am a rehabilitation counselor. I have many friends with autism and traumatic brain injuries. They help me learn new things constantly. I hike with dogs at the James River in Richmond - a lot. I've completed an Iron distance triathlon a year for 11 years. My most recent was in Wilmington, NC in November, 2013. I currently compete in mid-distance triathlons. And work and hike and take pictures and write and eat.
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