Today is Ripley’s birthday, so we continued with a long-standing tradition, with a New Mexico twist.
Ripley always gets frozen yogurt (or ice cream) on her birthday. When I worked at the Calistoga Tribune in California, we would go to the local frozen yogurt shop on her birthday, and she would get her own small cup of yogurt. After I had to stop working, we went to Sno Bunnies in Healdsburg, Napa Valley. Last year, we had a party at home with ice cream, candles, and birthday hats.
This year, we went to Caliche’s Frozen Custard in Las Cruces for Poochie Cones. Thanks go to our friends Vicki Gaubeca and Becky Corran, who introduced us to Caliche’s during our first weeks in Las Cruces. It was still winter, and a little cold for frozen yogurt, but that didn’t deter us from standing outside in line to get our first taste, and Ripley’s first free Poochie Cone. So of course, we knew that had to be our destination today.
Caliche’s is more than just a custard shop. It is a destination. We have yet to stop by when the drive-through isn’t busy, when people aren’t sitting on the benches outside, when cars aren’t streaming in and out of the parking lot. And at night, especially on weekends, the whole place is lit up and hopping with activity.
But Poochie Cones are the absolute best part. Every time we go, we see someone there with a dog, or several people with dogs, ordering for themselves, and getting the special treat of a miniature cone with frozen custard, free, for the canine member of the family.
Ripley is an old hand at eating yogurt, cones, ice cream. Well, eating in general. She’s a lab, after all. It’s her nature. Malaki, our other dog, had to work up to it. The first time he was offered a Poochie Cone, it ended up on the ground, because he couldn’t figure out how to eat it. We had to rein Ripley back from that one. Malaki did finally slurp it off the pavement, and, what the heck? It can’t be any worse than, say, cat poop, right? The second time, Sabrina tried to shove it in his mouth, and he managed to make a fairly decent go of it eventually. Our last trip, he mastered licking, and then ate the cone. Hallelujah! Meanwhile, Ripley downs her Poochie Cone in two bites: first bite, custard; second bite, cone. Gone. Then she looks at Malaki’s cone with deep longing.
Today, as I was attempting to make a photographic record of the occasion, Sabrina tried to restrain Ripley to prolong the consumption. I think Ripley licked the cone once before the two-bite assault. I had to snap quickly. Malaki was a champ. He is now a professional Poochie Cone eater. But, in Ripley’s opinion, he prolongs the process far too long with all that unnecessary licking.
Sabrina and I also celebrated, of course, with our standards. Mine is a regular sundae with chocolate syrup, Sabrina’s is a fudge brownie sundae with raspberry sauce added. Mmmmmmm.
We sang “Happy Birthday” on the drive home, as there was no time for such shenanigans while holding Poochie Cones and attempting to focus the camera.
Behind all of this, of course, is the fact that Ripley is aging. Remember that old saw about one dog year being equivalent to seven human years? Well, turns out that isn’t right at all. Of course, we knew that already. Just looking at a puppy growing up, you can tell that in the first year of a dog’s life, she goes from being an infant to a teenager. And that’s about correct – for medium dogs, one year is equal to about fifteen at the start. Then she ages about nine human years the next twelve months, and about five human years each year after that.
What does that all end up meaning? According to Pedigree’s Dog Age Calculator, where you can plug in your dog’s age and then the breed, Ripley is 82 years old. Eek! Not liking that number. Then there are a couple of other online converters that seem to err in the opposite direction, such as this one, which concludes by saying that Ripley at age 11 is really 57.
But on the American Kennel Club website, they offer a more general graph, based on weight (dogs less than 20 lbs., those 21-50 lbs., and those greater than 50 lbs.). This makes sense, since we know that smaller dogs live longer, and the big breeds have shorter life spans. Since Ripley weighs just over 50 lbs. (she’s about 52 lbs.), I figure that puts her in between the middle and high age ranges – which means at age eleven, in human years she is now somewhere between 65 and 72.
So even though the sight of Caliche’s puts a spring in her step – it is definitely time for Ripley to retire.