India was enjoying a mid-morning snooze in the crate in the kitchen, when she became aware that something was standing in front of her. This was not all that much of a problem but, whoever it was, was casting a shadow, which, annoyingly, blocked out the patch of sunshine that had been keeping her warm. She opened one eye, cautiously, to see who was responsible and wasn’t at all surprised to see Packham standing there, grinning broadly and wagging his tail.
“Wha?” She asked, sleepily.
“It’s my birthday!” Packham announced, proudly.
“Is it?” India found the effort of keeping one eye open a little too much, so she went back to sleep. A few moments passed but she could tell that the shadow was still there and could hear the swish, swish, swish of Packham’s tail. She risked opening her eye again.
“Happy Birthday!” She responded, without much enthusiasm, hoping he would now go away.
“Thanks.” Packham’s grin broadened and the tail wagging became even more vigorous. India closed her eyes again but it was obvious that Packham was not going to be put off by her snoozing. She sighed, opened both eyes and sat up.
“Alright, you’ve got my attention.” She yawned, “It’s your birthday, I get it”
“Yeah” More grinning and tail swishing.
“How old are you, then?”
The grinning and tail swishing stopped. Packham sat down hard on the tiled kitchen floor and furrowed his brow (a sure sign of thinking going on). After a while, he said,
“I’m not sure. I know I’m in my prime” He adopted a pose to show off his fine features. “Hang on!
With that, he padded off into the lounge. India took the opportunity to settle down and snooze once more. In the distance, she could hear voices, a short bark and then the tap, tap, tap of Packham’s claws on the floor as he came back into the kitchen. The shadow fell over her snoozing spot, again. She opened one eye, reluctantly,
“Seven!” Packham announced, proudly.
“I’m seven” Packham confirmed. India gave up on her snooze and heaved herself upright, again.
“How do you know?” She asked.
“I thought if I went in the lounge and grinned and wagged my tail for long enough, sooner or later, someone would say something. Sure enough, Mum said “Who’s seven then?” to me, so I’m seven!”
“That’s quite a lot isn’t it?”
“More than four” Packham nodded (anything more than four is a large number for dogs)
“Isn’t Flynn nine?” India asked.
“Erm, yes, I think so” Packham furrowed his brow as he thought hard, “Yes, that’s right. I’m sure that’s what they said when he had his birthday”
“Isn’t nine more than seven?” India suggested.
“Erm, let me think” Packham lay down and covered his eyes with his paws whilst he thought, deeply. Eventually, he said, “Yes, I’m sure it is”
“Well,” India began, scratching herself thoughtfully, “isn’t that a bit strange?”
“What do you mean, ‘strange’?” Packham asked.
“Well, here you are ‘in your prime’ as you keep telling me…” India began.
“A fine figure of a dog!” Packham said, proudly, “everyone says so”
“Alright, if you say so, but if you’re a fully grown up dog…” India continued.
“Yep, mature and handsome, a wonderful combination, don’t you think?” Packham struck another pose to show off his fine features.
“But Flynn’s older than you and he’s still a child” India finally managed to finish what she had been trying to say.
“Hang on!” Packham lay down and covered his eyes with his paws again. After a while he said “I’m getting a headache with all of this thinking. I shouldn’t be expected to think on my birthday!”
“Do you see what I mean, though?”
“Yes, yes, I see what you mean” Packham responded, irritably, “just a minute” He plodded off into the lounge again. There were more human voices and the odd woof. Presently, Packham wandered back into the kitchen.
“You’ve no idea how difficult it is to get them to understand what you’re trying to ask!” He complained, “anyway, luckily, they were just talking about it, so I think I understand now. It’s like this, human years are much, much shorter than our years”
“Are they? I thought a year was a year and that was that”
“Me too, but now I think about it, I can see what they mean. Look, do you remember Christmas and Santa Claus coming?”
“Oh yes,” India remembered with a grin, “mind you that was ages ago”
“Yes, I think so too.” Packham nodded, “and it will be a really long time before that happens again, won’t it?”
“Gosh, I should think so! We’re only just in summer!”
“And yet, I know that Mum was telling Flynn that it won’t be long before Christmas and that he can have something that he wants then”
“Really?” India was surprised.
“Yep, and that just proves it. What they were saying, back in the lounge, was that one of our years is like five of their years. So, Christmas, for them, is just a few months away but for us it’s…” He lay down with his paws over his eyes again and counted under his breath. There was a bit of growling and whimpering before he finally jumped up and said “Two and a-bit-left-over years away!”
“Wow, that is a long time!” India agreed, secretly impressed with Packham’s clever thinking.
“I know!” Packham agreed, “so, although I’m seven in dog years, I’m actually thirty-five in human years, which is why I’m a grown-up dog but Flynn is still a youngster, even though he’s older than me…sort of”
“That’s amazing! How did you work all of that out?”
“Ah, well, I didn’t exactly work it out myself” Packham confessed, looking down and pawing at the ground a little, “I overheard Dad telling Flynn all about it”
“Oh, still you’ve done really well to make sense of it all” India grinned at her companion.
“I know! And on my birthday, too! I’ll need another birthday to get over all of this thinking” Packham grumbled.
“Come on, I’ll race you to the other side of the field” India set off for the kitchen door.
“I don’t know if I want to do that”
“Why? Is it because you’re getting too old?” India chuckled.
“How very dare you? I’ve told you, I’m in my prime!”
“Or is it because you’re too…fat!” She scampered out of the door as she said the last word, with Packham in hot pursuit.
“I AM NOT FAT!” He yelled as they raced across the yard, scattering hens and ducks in all directions.
“Happy Birthday, Packham!” India yelled over her shoulder as they hurtled over the grass.
Packham grinned and thought about what he would most like to do on his birthday. All in all, he decided, there was nothing quite so much fun as chasing India, across the field, on a fine summer’s day.
* If you look up what ‘dog days’ means, on Wikipedia or something like that, you’ll find this is a very appropriate title
You can find a lot more of these stories about Packham and India in the new collection 'Animal Turns' available in paperback and Kindle editions. All profits from the sale of this book go to support the work of TURN Education C.I.C. a not-for-profit Community Interest Organisation. To find out more about TURN (and the roles of Packham and India) check out TURN's website: