My friend John Howell challenged me to write about my first dog, something I’ve been reluctant to do. But, armed with a fresh box of Kleenex, I shall give it a go in hopes enough time has elapsed to do it justice….
I grew up with dogs — a wiener dog when I was a toddler, then a Beagle, and a miniature poodle — but they were family dogs. A few years after graduating college, I decided to get a pup of my own.
A farm advertised a litter of American Eskimo Dogs, and when I saw them, I was hooked. This precious ball of white fluff settled in my arms, tentatively mouthing the pull on my jacket’s zipper and gazing adoringly up at me.
My heart melted!
Looking back, I should’ve seen the red flags. Who charges a mere $35 for something this cute:
I named him Benji and together, we figured out a lot of things — me, how to care for and love a lively, enthusiastic dog; him, how to become a protector, best bud, and entertainment committee.
Benji’s favorite thing was sniffing a kumquat, then STREAKING around the house at a mad pace, racing round and round the furniture, to my delightful squeals.
In hindsight, I wasn’t the best doggie mom. I didn’t know any better, and no one taught me. You see, I worked long hours, leaving this baby to his own devices; I failed to regularly brush his fur, cut his nails, or brush his teeth. I can count on the fingers of one hand how often we went for walkies on a leash. And his lips never tasted grain-free or holistic food. I did teach him tricks, and he loved to ride in the car. And sleep beside me at night.
I thought everything was fine until one day, he toppled over while trying to potty. Refused to climb stairs. Watched me from the couch, his round eyes pools of misery.
I took him to the vet, who did an x-ray and gave me the bad news.
Because of inbreeding, Benji’s spine hadn’t developed properly. And never would.
‘Is he in pain?’ I had to know.
‘Yes, we think so. And he’ll only get worse.’ (read: incontinence, etc.).
‘What are my options?’
At the suggestion of putting him down, I was adamant. ‘It’s not fair. He’s just two years old. No way!’
‘Think about it. You don’t have to decide right now. You’ll know when it’s time.’
Eventually, I made that decision, after realizing it was the last unselfish thing I could do for my pup. And I cried for months afterward.
I like to think of Benji now, whole and pain-free, romping at the Rainbow Bridge and waiting for me there.
Any pet stories you’d like to share?
What a beautiful story, and Benji was clearly a much-loved and loving pup. My first dog was called Dogtanian (like the musketeer). He was the runt of the litter and was going to be drowned, so I tucked him inside my leather jacket and rode him home on my motorbike. I was 19. He was a ridiculous creature who never even managed to learn his own name (he would bound over enthusiastically at the mention of any name whatsoever) but was my constant companion and even bit a burglar who broke into my house. Like Benji, he was not a properly developed chap and he also had to ‘have an early night’ at barely three years old. I still have pictures of him, though, and shall always remember him fondly.
Aw, Lucy, thanks for sharing your story of Dogtanian. He sounds like a perfect “first dog” to me! I’m so sorry you, too, had to go through the pain of parting with him early. It certainly wasn’t easy, but perhaps both he and Benji had served the purpose for which they’d come into our lives.
You are very welcome. It sounds silly, but I sort of hoped that when Dogtanian left me, maybe he found a little person up there who had also been taken too early and maybe they could become friends and play together. Everything happens for a reason and I am grateful for the time I had with the furry little bugger.
That’s a wonderful thought, Lucy! I kind of like to think Benji found my long-departed family dogs and they’re all running free together. And perhaps my long-departed family members as well.
Oh dear! What a sad story, overall. But, at least, you gave him the best life, I think, he could’ve had. Breeders should definitely take more care of how they breed, I’m thinking.
You are spot-on, Professor. It’s all in the breeding. Dallas was carefully and thoughtfully planned by someone who knew exactly what she was trying to achieve, and it shows. Poor Benji never had much of a chance, but I didn’t know that when I got him. And you know what? His brief life doesn’t detract from how happy I think it was, and how happy he made me!
Debbie, what a touchingly beautiful story. And OMG…what sweet-looking dog Benji was! And knowing you (and your love, care and devotion to Dallas), you I’m sure you gave Benji a great quality life in the time that he was here. It’s so sad to lose a pet, isn’t it? It’s one thing to lose them when they are older; even though it’s still difficult. But it’s another thing to lose them when they are young. Either way it’s very hard.
I had a cat (Jerry) for 19 years, and it was very, very difficult to lose him because we shared such a close bond. In fact, I witnessed him being born and also witnessed him though the dying process. I was there for both. I’ve had other cats who I’ve lost, but losing Jerry was extremely hard.
Thanks so much for sharing this story, my friend. Have a great weekend!
Ron, Jerry sounds like the purr-fect cat for you! Nineteen years is a LONG time to have a pet, and I’m sure you enriched each other’s lives by the bond you shared! It’s sooo hard to let them go, but we all know that people typically outlive animals, so we shouldn’t be surprised when they pass.
Yep, I did the best I could for Benji, for as long as I had him. He was such a funny, loving little dog. Looking back, perhaps I should have known something was amiss, for he was lots thinner than he should have been. I guess Mother Nature knew he couldn’t carry much weight on that spine of his. I still get teary-eyed thinking about how short his life was though.
Hope you have a delightful weekend!
It’s a hard decision to ever have to make and even harder with such a young pet. But sometimes it’s the best – and only – thing to do. Poor Benji – but lucky Benji too, for having someone who cared so much about him.
Thanks for understanding and reading, FF. I kept thinking, What if the vet is wrong and Benji is just going through a phase? But when I saw the x-ray, it became obvious; and when I saw how much pain he was in … well, the choice was apparent. We love them briefly as best as we can and mourn them just like members of our family when they leave.
Indeed we do! Every time I lose one I feel as if I can’t go through it again, but they give us so much pleasure for the short time we have them…
And that’s probably why we do it over and over again! That, and the deep down, unrealistic hope they’ll live forever!
What a fluffy hunk of Love!
It’s always SO difficult when your pet is sick…I mean, they’re like your kids. Right?
When our 15 year old tabby got sick, I told Mr. L. “I will not look at him in pain for one. more. single. day.”
We brought him in together and bawled our heads off. He was PURE Feline LOVE.
Oh, Kim, I’m sooo sorry you and Mr. L. had to go through this, too! You’re 100% correct, my dear — we do love them like members of our family (because they ARE members of our family and because they depend on us totally — unlike our kids, ha!) I, too, couldn’t watch Benji watching me with pain in his eyes. Since surgery or medicines weren’t options, I had to love him unselfishly, and it wasn’t easy. But I’m convinced it was right. Thanks for understanding — love you to the moon! xoxo
What wonderful memories you have of Benji. And isn’t that always the case — that we don’t have a clue what to do with our first pets (or our first children, for that matter). Dixie Rose has taught me a good bit about what it means to have a pet, and thought I doubt I’ll ever have another, if I do, I’ll be a much better pet parent because of her. I’ll be that ‘s true of you and Dallas. You’re better for him, because of what you learned in the past.
Well said, Linda! Yes, Dallas is the beneficiary of the education I received from Benji — complete with the brushing of teeth, walking, grooming, and “fussing”! I wonder sometimes if Dallas would prefer an owner who didn’t know as much, ha!!
I’ll probably always have a dog. I complain sometimes about how much time it takes to have one, but they give so much affection and companionship — and it’s nice to have somebody to talk to who listens without judging! I used to have fish, but they weren’t near as cuddly!
Awww…Benji was a special little guy, and he was lucky to have you, even if it was only 2 years. You loved him enough to let him go when it was time. For sure he’s running at the bridge pain free. Hugs.
Thanks for understanding, Dawn. I love the image of Benji at the bridge — the thought that he’s there with my family dogs running free. I refuse to think about Dallas being there too one day (he’s been with me eight years now, and he’s such a part of me that his demise will feel like cutting off an arm).
I know. Here too.
Yup, since they’re the same age and all.
Oh, Debbie. I cried. We only know what we know. You served Benji well. What a sweetie. Thank you for sharing him with us.
Sorry to make you cry, Audrey, but it’s nice to have someone share my tears! Thank you for that. I suppose parents, too, “learn” on their first child. We do the best we can with the info we have at hand — and try not to be too critical for our well-intentioned mistakes.
What I tell myself all the time. Feels good to hear it from another. Hugs!
Right back at you, my friend!
Oh my goodness, this has to be one of the saddest dog stories I’ve heard in a while. Inbreeding! I hate people who try to make a buck at the expense of beautiful, amazing dogs. When I was about 7 years old, my uncle gave me a small dog, but we were not a dog type of family and didn’t know how to care for them. My mother wanted to keep him m in the bathroom the whole time because we didn’t know how to train him to not go in the house. Well, I don’t think he lasted two weeks with us, and I had to give him back. So I didn’t have a dog until Henry. I still didn’t know what to do but I asked a lot of questions of my friend who has had dogs all her life ( she’s the one who told me I only need to feed Henry twice a day, not three as a I was doing) and bought out the whole pet store. Enough said. I love my dogs to death and I can only imagine your grief at losing Benji so young. Inbreeding. Harrumph. How disgusting.
Your poor little first doggie! It’s hard being the guinea pig, isn’t it? I KNOW Sir Henry and Oliver have a much better existence today — education and a knowledgeable friend are life-savers. Thanks for sharing your story, Monica. And thanks for empathizing with my Benji.
Benji was fortunate to have you, Debbie. You showed him love and fun while he was able to enjoy it. And you made that horribly difficult decision when it was time. I truly believe he is living a pain-free, fun life now.
Thanks for reassuring me, Terri. I believe the same thing — also that we’ll be together again one day! It’s sad that pets have so much shorter lives than people do.
Shame on those people for careless breeding. I will never buy another pretty from a breeder. We encountered a similar apparently good deal, though a bit more costly, she lived 8 years but had issues. You did the best you could at the time and I think BenjI felt your love, so I hope you have peace in that.