I realized today that your "gotcha" birthday is coming up next week. You are going to be 14 years-old. In your world, that's geriatric. And I see it in your cloudy eyes every morning when I wake you up with a gentle pat. I see it when you stand up and your body is weak and stiff. I see it more every day when gray replaces the bright brown of your muzzle.

Celebrating Chaz' birthday in 2006 at Garden of the Gods. -AshleyS

I remember our first day together - the first week of June in 2004. You were a mere eight pounds and all ears. You were so scared - residing in the death room of the shelter because you were too mean to be in with the general population. But, you immediately warmed up to me. The staff was shocked since you had bitten each of them. But, you loved me immediately. And it has been unlike any other love I've ever experienced. You were with me before I met my husband and had my daughter. You were my family and my friend in the darkest time of my life.

Chaz' birthday gift - a pink bag and lunch in Savannah, GA. -AshleyS

I remember how vibrant you used to be. I also remember when you chewed up countless pairs of shoes, a Temperpediac mattress, and a brand new Louis Vuitton backpack.  You don't know how close you came to finding a new home that day. But, you had already woven yourself into the fabric of me.

I miss your spark. I miss your oingo-boingo jumping up and down when I'd come home from work. I miss your zoomies around the front yard. But, it pales in comparison to how much I'm going to miss your unwavering presence when you leave this world.

When the vet told me that you were in late stage kidney failure, I immediately wanted to know HOW MUCH TIME. That was two Septembers ago. I know you are holding on for me. I know your body is deteriorating and life isn't much more than a series of naps interrupted by breakfast, dinner, and snuggle time.

Celebrating Chaz' birthday at Hilton Head in 2010.

I have prepared myself that we are entering the series of lasts. It's your last birthday. It will be your last summer. And then, last fall, and Christmas. After every pitstop on the timeline of life, I secretly hope you hang on til the next one. What would Christmas be without you? What would my birthday be without you? What would Mother's Day be without you? But, I don't want you to suffer.

So, I have decided to focus on the present. You don't ask for much in this life so I'm planning for us to go for a ride in the car, eat some ice cream, and maybe walk by the river if you can handle it. It certainly won't be like the old days - trips to the beach, hiking the mountains... no, none of that. But we will do your favorite thing in the world -- spend time together.

And who knows, you've surprised me and the vet for two years now. Maybe we'll get to celebrate the big 1-5 next year! Until then we'll celebrate every occasion as if it were the last.

Love you so much, little friend. Happy birthday.