The first dog I had as a child – that I could really call my own, and that could curl up in my own bed with me – was Dayzi. She was a snooty little beagle mix with playful eyes. She was unmistakably “my” dog. She was an “only dog” for just a few short months before we got Bull (nicknamed Big Boo), who instantly took his place as “Daddy’s dog.” Bull and Dayzi grew old together as I grew up and moved away.
Shortly after Dom and I married Bull’s health deteriorated and the veterinarian graciously made a house call to end Bull’s suffering. Dayzi would survive him by another year before Dom and I would carry her to the vet for the last time.
Missing Bull and ready for new life in the house, Mom and Dad got Bull Two (nicknamed Little Boo) and Emma. Little Boo was a timid fur-ball who was scared of his own shadow when he first arrived at their house. I recall that he hid behind a potted plant on the patio and watched as Emma bounded around the yard. We thought he was a dud. That was thirteen years ago this summer. Little did we know…
Little Boo pawed his way into my Daddy’s heart and, much like grandchildren, got his way on damn near everything. He ate what my dad ate, went where my dad went, and had much to say if anyone thought it should be different. He barked a lot. A. LOT. Despite his bark being aggravating, I couldn’t help but smile at him because with each “woof” his two front paws would hop off the carpet as if the reverb from his own voice made him bounce. I used to joke and say he’d stop barking if we would just nail his paws to the floor ‘cause he obviously couldn’t talk without his hands.
Conversations at their house frequently went like this:
Me: “Your dog is annoying!”
Daddy: “Not my Boo-Boo!”
Mom: “Your sister’s talking mean about you again, Boo!”
Oh, but he had good qualities, too, though he chose to show those last. He could be sweet. And he had the softest head!! All that cushy soft fur and those big brown eyes…why, when he was quiet he was downright loveable!
Because I visited Mom and Dad so often, and because Mom would keep my children while I worked, we worried most about Bull when Aaron was born. Bull seemed to be more aggressive than Emma and we knew we would have to be mindful of him at all times around the baby. But Bull saw Aaron as something to protect, and he would stand guard next to the pack-and-play while Aaron slept. While Aaron was awake, Bull would be found sitting at the feet of whomever held Aaron. He actually liked the kid! Emma, on the other hand, preferred to ignore the kids through the years and appreciated the same in return, thankyouverymuch.
Even though he acted like a bad-ass, Bull was still a scaredy-cat at heart. He hated lightning, thunder, and camera flashes. Two Christmases ago Dom bought me a new camera, which I proudly brought along to Mom and Dad’s for Christmas lunch. Bull nutted up and sat shaking beside the washing machine for most of the afternoon. We couldn’t figure out what his problem was, until we finally guesstimated that it must have been the camera flash. Sure enough, the next time I brought the camera, he started shaking all over again. Weenie! But, I took all my pictures from then on with my flash disabled.
Doc made a house-call for Emma last summer after she declined in health. I watched my parents grieve politely over losing her. It seemed to me that their dogs always made Mom and Dad make the hard choices. Knowing how long they would put off the inevitable, I am convinced Doc’s needle was only a day or two ahead of that dark shadow every soul must meet. But making that call was always the hardest part.
And so I am surprised once again by Boo’s kindness. As much of a spoiled brat as he was, he performed the most unselfish act last night. He welcomed the shadow on his own. He didn’t make my Daddy call Doc and then wonder if he had done the right thing. Boo died with Mom and Dad at his side in the living room.
I know my parents are heartbroken. And I am sad too. I will tell Aaron and Victoria this morning about Boo, and I dread doing that. When I spoke with mom yesterday evening, she told me that Boo had fallen down, and had stopped eating and drinking. They were just trying to make him comfortable. Her voice was shaking and I couldn’t help but cry as I hung up the phone. Victoria asked me if Boo was going to die today, and I said, “No, sweetie. He will die soon, but not today.” And then I sent her to bed.
I hate that I was wrong. But it reminds me that death is an invisible thief. We do not see it arrive, even when we are watching for it. I find this disturbing and comforting all at the same time.
Rest in sweet peace, Boo-meister. You will be greatly missed.