Birthday Calendar for Dogs

Around 1973, I "invented" a Dog Birthday Calendar for my house dogs. As I had nine house dogs in a very large old farmhouse at the time, and they each had SEVEN birthdays every year, I decided that it was too hard to keep track of all the birthdays in any other way!

It should be noted that I tried to celebrate most of those birthdays with the dogs, where each got, of course, dog goodies, often Milkbones. By the way, I quickly learned that they were NOT impressed by cheaper brand versions of Milkbones, which I had resorted to due to the rather massive usage of them in my house!

I suspect that any other dog-person could improvise a similar calendar to what I made. I picked a LARGE calendar, of the many that always then arrived around Christmas of each year as advertising for local companies. Inside each space for the date, I wrote a small number in the range of 1 to 52. January 1 always was 1, and numbers increased until February 21, which was always a 52. February 22 was then always a 1 again, and the numbers increased again. Altogether, I went through the entire cycle of 52s seven times, which accounted for 364 days. December 30 and 31 could be an additional 1 or 2, depending on Leap Years.

Here's how it worked. Three of my dogs were from the same litter, born on October 7. I would look at the calendar and see what number I had written for that day. Then I would mark that day and the other six days that had that same number with "Mimas, Titan and Enceladus" which were the names of those three dogs. (They were born in a litter of nine, which I named for the nine moons then known circling the planet Saturn. Enceladus' name was somewhat long and annoying, and she was generally called Fluff.)

I did the same for the other dogs, such as Phobos and Deimos (named for moons of Mars) and Triton and Nereid (named for moons of Neptune). Triton's name was so similar sounding to the older Titan that he was generally called Meatball. Nereid was born with many birth defects, and he had a lot of trouble playing with the older dogs, so he was generally called Little Kid or simply Kid. (More information than you wanted to know!)

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So the Calendar had all the birthdays indicated on it. Of course, I figured that it was a LOT more important to the dogs than to me (because of the goodies), so it seemed logical to me that it was hung on the wall about a foot above the floor, where THEY would be able to see it easiest. I always suspected that Mimas was the only one who was truly smart enough to both understand the calendar and to realize the importance, so that positioning was probably irrelevant for all of the other dogs.

Mimas regularly did amazing things like that. Except for special meals, the dogs were self-feeding, from a pail that I filled daily for them. She clearly decided that the food got dry by being exposed to the air for those hours, so she would often chew a small hole in the bottom of one of the 50-pound bags stacked up in a nearby area when the truck would deliver our thousand pounds of dog food every three weeks. That way she could eat dogfood that had not yet been exposed to the air! One night, I thought I heard the sound of a burglar downstairs in the house. That seemed unlikely with nine large dogs in the house, but I carefully snuck down the stairs. When I peeked around the corner, I saw Mimas sitting on the floor in front of the refrigerator, with the door wide open. She had not grabbed any food, but apparently was simply looking at what was there! It was especially unusual as the refrigerator was an old one which had a lever handle which had to be pulled down in order to release the latch. Somehow, she figured out how it worked and figured out how to pull it to open the door. She would also regularly get over or under a four-foot-high fence I put around two acres for them to play in, but she never went anywhere then, but simply laid down just outside the fence! She also did the same regarding the eight-foot-high fence I built around their dog run which was attached to the house. Whenever she did not seem to be in the house when we were about to play with the tennis ball, all I ever had to do was open the door, as she was always sitting right there! It was as though she was simply showing that she could get out of anything I could build! I was often not sure which of us was the most intelligent, Mimas or me!

My mother often volunteered to dog-sit for all the dogs. Mimas took merciless advantage of my mother! For several years, after every meal, my mother would very carefully divide up any food scraps into NINE equal pieces. The dogs all understood this and were always waiting in a line across the middle of our kitchen floor. No matter which end of the line my mother started at, Mimas was always the first dog in line to get a goodie. (I never figured out how she managed that!) My dogs were all taught to have good manners so they never grabbed or bit, and my mother generally took about a minute to give out the nine tasty pieces of food scraps. And she would ALWAYS wind up facing Mimas, who could look REALLY hungry and sweet, without any piece of goodie for her. So my mother always had to search around for a TENTH piece of goodie for Mimas. In about three years of Mimas working this trick, my mother NEVER caught on! She ALWAYS just thought that she had counted wrong and needed another piece. And since she had already given out all the actual scraps, Mimas generally got an actual piece of meat or something else that we humans would have eaten, so her trick even resulted in an extra bonus!

So, for her to figure out a calendar and to understand it, did NOT seem likely to be beyond her! Puppy's Play! I had even tried to get her to paw at large letters I spread out on the floor, to spell or count. I will always believe that she COULD have if she wished, but that she seemed to consider it too simple and boring! If she was still around today, I would certainly have made a "pawboard" for a computer for her, and I probably would have shown her how to make a URL to get pictures of dogs or other animals. I don't think she would have cured cancer or anything like that, but I had no idea what she might want to try to do!

I do not really want any company to start commercially making and selling my Dog Calendar, but I have no problem if individual dog people make them for themselves (and their dogs!)

By the way, a lot of people talk about "personalities" of dogs. Bah! They have DOGALITIES!

There are some other web-pages which are dog-centered:

Animal Intelligence. Does It Exist?
Animal Insight, Intelligence, Logic

My Dogs - Their Chores
Birthday Calendar for Dogs
Dogs Are Being Exterminated in the United States
Dog on Snow Skis - My Dog Meatball

This presentation was first placed on the Internet in 2003.

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C Johnson, Theoretical Physicist, Physics Degree from Univ of Chicago