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?