Great Dogs (BJ, Faulkner)

My posts (edited) from another website’s discussion forum.

Date: 14 Feb 08 – 12:00 PM

FAULKNER

I’ve had many dogs at many stages in their lives, but– due to the vagaries of moving, accidental deaths, fostering others’ dogs, etc.– I’ve never had a dog (or cat now that I think of it) that was with me through its whole life cycle.

So I find myself poignantly and acutely struck by Faulkner’s aging. Oh, he isn’t OLD yet, but he’s slowing down into a mature, middle-aged dog– a dog of wisdom. And he chooses to be more Greg’s dog than mine. So why should I grieve? I have another, younger dog of “my own” now….

The alone-time I spend with just-F each day, and the time I spend with both F and young Sadie each day– it just seems like I want to deeply savor every moment with him because his mortality is palpable in a way I have never had to deal with before.

So it is with places and people I love. I had so much uprooting as a child that I never had time or slack to feel and re-evaluate each of those upheavals– before the next one had to be survived. I try to follow Corrie tenBoom’s wise counsel– not to hold anything too tight because it will just hurt all the more when our fingers have to be pried off of them in due course. The only thing we can hold, forever, is God. But I try to appreciate these dear ones deeply while I have them in my life, and I guess that is a way to pre-grieve what I know (logically) will someday be lost.

F is such a great dog, and he’s been so patient and long-suffering with the indignities of Sadie’s forays into playfulness. Last night he calmly wished to hang out, curled up in his dogbed, and wait for hockey goals (and goal-treat opportunities from Greg). Sadie, on the other hand, wanted to wrestle. The more resolutely F declined and politely curled his nose up into his belly, the harder she tried. Finally, she pawed his head out of the curl, and so he indulged her with the lie-down-snapping game where they imitate bear fighting sounds until she gets tired out and runs off to flirt with someone or something else. But he never growled, bit hard, or laid his ears back.

I just love that dog… Even Greg was affected by this dogly wisdom as well.

Date: 20 Feb 08 – 12:36 PM

Faulkner has reached a new milestone– he didn’t ask, last night, to go to bed in either of his two preferred corners. He asked to come upstairs, with us.

The logistics for that are not yet in place (his logical sleeping spot up there is right where we’d trip over him on our way to the bathroom in the dark), so as I went up early I left him downstairs for Greg to put to bed. But he was loose in the living room to greet me when I came down this morning. So either Greg left him there all night, or left him there when he went to the office– or both. Of course there were no accidents, chewed furniture, or raided kitchen.

The delay in joining us upstairs has been F’s delay in the asking, not ours in the offering. I’ll have to see if he asks to go to his more usual corner when I leave the house, later today.

It seems that with Sadie’s arrival, he’s decided he’s due for a promotion to the next grade level. And he certainly has more than earned it. But we never ask a dog to do what it is not equipped to do (nor what it doesn’t want to do) unless the dog’s safety is involved.

Last night I dreamed (again/again/again) that F was loose outside and about to get run over in the road that is very, very close to the front door.

That is ONE promotion Faulkner will never get– being loose on the property. I will not require him to yield his need to run, run, run. Loose elsewhere safe, yes of course… but never on our road. I lost one great dog that way already, thanks to a careless mistake.

F is great, and he’s stolen my heart. But my BJ– now there was a dog.

BJ

BJ was my first dog rescue. We’d planned to buy a house here, and the sale fell through for complicated reasons… but included in the sale was going to be the widowed owner’s dog. BJ had been the dog of her just-departed husband, who had died a long and painful death at home. Home hospice, with BJ always at his side.

When I’d first gone to see the house with a realtor, BJ picked me out. I returned many times to measure, etc., and Cathy asked me if I wanted the dog. (She herself planned to move into a small trailer with no running room.) BJ was used to the hills around that  house. With each visit, she continued to make me hers.

Well, when the sale had to be canceled, I said that I’d still like to take the dog. Cathy graciously agreed, and this was one of my first introductions to the heart of the people here. She was not our parishioner, you see– just a typical Tioga County woman being herself with us. And BJ had not really been “her” dog, just as Faulkner, now, is not really “mine.” And she had seen BJ pick me out.

Cathy sold the house and moved, during the month it took me to get back and forth between here and Chicago to complete our own move. BJ had spent that month tethered on the property adjoining “her” house, with a dog-loving parishioner who did the best she could to keep BJ safe and well. I drove a full-up vanload here, 12 hours behind the wheel with no stops except for gas, with our daughter and a cat tucked in among the boxes.

It had weighed heavily on me that this already-grieving dog was now tied up on a hill she had used to run, with none of her former home, people, and routines. So we swang by before arriving at the house we had rented, to pick her up. I’d saved one BJ-sized spot in the van, and packed a leash.

I could see her across a deep expance of grass on the top of the hill. I got out of the van BJ had never seen, stood on the driveway’s shoulder, and just quietly said her name. I wasn’t even calling her. She went nuts on her chain until I got to her with the leash. She came along peacefully to the van, and hopped right in.

My step-daughter and I, the cat, and BJ joined Greg, who had taken possession of the house in our absence.

We all spent a month welcoming our two sons “home” to that house from other custodial visitations, awaiting the delivery of our furniture and “stuff.” We camped in the house with the things I’d brought in the van, sleeping on the floors and lounging around on the thick living room carpet without a couch or a TV.

The first month in a new parish is a busy time, anyway. I miss that uncluttered time of summer sunlight pouring through the house!

BJ spent that month calmly shadowing me, riding along if I went anywhere, and curled up next to me on the LR carpet. She was still grieving, and sorting things out. We didn’t ask anything of her. She eventually perked up and began to show us what a great dog she was.

I guess she was about 4 or 5. One of her great activities was that she would clean up not only her own dog toys, but anything left on the floor (if asked). We could strew newspaper sections all over the room, and she would bring each piece over to me for disposal, without shredding any of it or even puncturing the delicate newsprint– just for the joy of bringing presents!

It was BJ who taught me how to live with a dog. She eventually got pretty arthritic, but was always a gracious, playful, and loving dog.

I was up very late one summer night waiting for one of the boys to come home, while Greg was out of town….. it had been a long and bad night. Flashbacks of single-parent mode! A time of extreme teenage rebellion from all three kids. I finally gave up waiting for that boy to come home safe and went up to bed, exhausted.

The other son helpfully let BJ out for one last piddle, and as I dropped off to sleep I guess I must have half-heard the front door open and close…. she usually was let out the back door….

[GRAPHIC text follows]

because….

…. that’s why, when I heard the awful THUMP a moment later through the open bedroom window, I instantly knew that BJ had gotten it in the road. Totally.

Our son was horrified of course. It was he who immediately went out with a flashlight to look. He was coming back inside as I came downstairs.

A car-toss away from the road-killed groundhog in the middle of the road, he’d found BJ horribly lengthened, not a scratch on her, wound around the posts holding up a guardrail across from the house.

She must have smelled that roadkill, gone to investigate, and been too sore and slow to get out of the way of the next car to hurtle down our drag-racing road. She was mostly black– I’m sure the mortified driver never saw her. (He did stop to inquire.) I’m sure that it was instantaneous and that she never knew what hit her.

[end of graphic text]

My son asked for instructions, and followed them. BJ was wrapped in my favorite poncho, and he buried her the next morning near the pond out back.

That son also was in the throes of rebellion during that time, but he showed his true character in how he handled all that. And he never let a dog out loose, again. Oh….! It’s HIS socks Faulkner plays with, and it’s him who offered to walk F when I went to visit, and of course by the time he offered to do that I had forgotten why he might take such care when I visit with a dog. I thought it was because I took such good care of his cat when he left for the Navy, in the intervening years.

But now I realize– it was thanks to BJ’s teaching of him, too.

Here’s to all the great dogs anyone has ever known and loved!

~Susan

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