So Long, Bea.

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our Bea

How many of you have an elderly dog? 

(Hold up your hands, puh-lease. We’re all in this together. Higher, higher, because I’m in Nebraska and thus am very far from many of you–I can see you, Mom.) Okay, those of you with your hands raised–how many times have you looked at your older, struggling, blind and possibly deaf and of course wobbly on her feet and it goes without saying sometimes incontinent, doggy, and thought–with no small amount of guilt–that . . . it would be a mercy if she . . just . . . (insert that thought that we won’t put into words) . . . dot dot dot . . .

It’s not that you don’t love her. It’s not that you don’t treasure her. It’s just that . . . after thirteen and half years of vibrant, crazy, joyous good puppy-like health and energy, she suddenly took a turn, say, and became an elderly dog, rife with elderly-dog problems. This happened overnight, without warning.

And then one morning, she follows you out to your garden–as she does every morning–but instead of muscling naughtily in the garden gate (which is not permitted) and lying on your little basil plants (ditto) and trudging through your newly-planted leeks (you get the drift), and scratching mightily while crushing your tiny carrot seedlings, and chasing a chicken or two to get your attention (it always works) and barking fiercely at the UPS driver who comes down the driveway (because she knows that you never notice that huge brown truck without her alert) and biting at the kitty when she gets too close to you . . . she lies down in some soft grass, and after a few hours of stillness–possibly the first time in her 14+ years that she has been so still–she dies.

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Please let me bite the chicken. Oh please please let me bite the chicken.

And then, gentle reader, although she was deaf (she couldn’t hear when you called her, so when you wanted her to come, you’d have to actually position yourself in front of her and gesticulate wildly) and couldn’t see very well (which means you had to watch for her very carefully when you were backing up your vehicle, because she sure as heck wasn’t watching for you) and sometimes got confused (like when she would forget where her kennel was, and would rush into the wrong room when you told her to go to her kennel) and even though all her bad habits from the years became even worse in her elderly-dog months (like tearing through the trash can, when you weren’t looking, to find the candy wrapper that she could smell at the very bottom–and then, as she lost her doggy filter, she’d do it even when you were looking) even though all of this was pitiably true, you still miss her like crazy.

Oh, Bea.

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We lost our little dog Bea this week, to the ravages of doggy old age. I want to remember her and all her funny orneriness, so this post is dedicated to the memory of our funny, complicated, strong-willed, too-smart-for-us, unique little dog.

We’ve lived out at our place for fifteen years now, and we’ve only been without a dog one other time: when our dog Meisha got hit by a car on the road. She was a terrific companion, and I missed her so badly that Bryan rushed out to find another dog for me (so I would stop crying, already), and he brought home Bea.

Bea (named Beatrice, after the strong-willed and beautiful leading lady in Shakespeare’s play Much Ado About Nothing) was a bundle of nervous, anxious energy, even as a puppy. The first thing she did, when I picked her up the first time, was wet on me. A lot. Then she looked up at me, pleadingly.

Please don’t be mad. I’m just a little puppy.

She was adorable. Meisha had been The Perfect Dog–she was a pleaser dog, always studying our faces for indications of what would please us. Bea was not cut out of the same cloth. Even though Bryan took her to obedience class, she was a Law Unto Herself and very studiously chose not to obey, most of the time.

"Smile, Bea! Hold still--good girl!"

“Smile, Bea! Hold still–good girl!”

Bea: "Get away from me, cat. I'm being photographed."

Bea: “Get away from me, cat, or I will bite you. I’m being photographed.”

I miss her like crazy, in the same strange way that I miss the orneriest and loudest and most unpredictable drama kids the most when they graduate and go on to make somebody else’s lives difficult, instead of mine. ( 🙂 I love you guys!!) She was an individual dog. She was more anxious than she was cuddly, and she preferred the safety of her kennel to our laps. She rarely let us pet her, until the physical trials of those last few months of her life mellowed her. Many visitors to our place remarked that Bea certainly was a nicer dog in her dotage, and it was true. Nicer. Perhaps not as interesting.

I’ve shared a couple of Bea stories with you in this space already, like when we tried to train her to chase away a fox that was decimating our chicken flock one by one. That is when she gained the nickname “The Bullet,” because of her speedy fox-chasing skills.

Bea got herself trapped in the live trap. "Whaa Mom, the bait was cat food, what did you expect??"

Bea got herself trapped in the live trap more than once. “Whaa Mom, the bait was cat food, what did you expect??”

Some of our Bea stories are hard to believe. People think we are making them up. But that’s the kind of dog she was: a dog who did things that sounded like fiction. I’ve already written about the day that I looked down at Bea and saw her brain, through a hole in her skull. I took her to the vet (um, yep, immediately, no question) and he admitted that (though he was in his 80s at the time) he had never seen such a thing.

That was the kind of dog Bea was. The kind of dog who could open every door in our house (even doorknobs, she’d stand up on her back legs and twist the knob with gentle pressure from her nose), who was a top dog and never made another doggy friend (even Ollie, our big black lab who was with us for 5 or 6 years before he disappeared a few months ago, she barely tolerated, and would bully him whenever she could), who–terrified of thunderstorms–broke out of her steel-barred kennel more than once, who–even without any training–would search out chickens every night when I walked out to shut them in, and would point me toward any mavericks that weren’t in the coop yet.

Ah, Bea.

When I told Ollie to SIT and STAY, Ollie would sit and stay. When I told Bea to SIT and STAY, she would SIT UNTIL I TURNED THE OTHER WAY.

When I would tell Ollie to SIT and STAY, Ollie would sit and stay. When I told Bea to SIT and STAY, she would SIT UNTIL I TURNED THE OTHER WAY.

My favorite memory of Bea is probably this one: a few years ago, our neighbor’s steers kept getting out of their pasture, and they’d wander over to our place. I’m just a bit protective of my orchard and my gardens, you know, and I’d wake up in the morning to see those big placid bovines walking through my garden, chewing up my plantings, and trampling through my fences. I’d call my neighbor immediately and he’d drop what he was doing and come round them up, apologizing all the while. He’s a great neighbor. He just didn’t have great fences (he does, now).

One day, however, I couldn’t locate my neighbor, and his cows were again loose and grazing in our back pasture, inching ever-closer to my precious gardens. I called his home phone. I called his cell. No answer. No problem! As long as they didn’t go near my orchard or gardens  . . . an hour passed. Two. I had shut Bea up in her kennel, meanwhile, because I wasn’t at all sure what she’d do with those steers. I knew she’d chase them, I just wasn’t sure where she’d chase them to. Kansas? Canada? Who knows where she would stop?

Bea always had to be closer to Mom than Ollie was.

Bea always had to be closer to Mom than Ollie was.

There were at least twenty of them, and they were really big, as Angus steers go. A couple of times, I grabbed the kids and we headed out, trying to scare the cattle back home. We clapped. We yelled. We waved our arms like crazy people. It was hard not to let Bea do the job for us, but I was trying to be a responsible neighbor.

Those big boys were nonplussed. Not only did they stare at us with bored expressions, a couple of them got lippy, snorting and taking a few steps toward us. “Mom,” said Timothy. “It’s not worth the risk–is your garden that important that you’d risk our lives—??”

“Yes,” Brother. “Yes, it is.” What a silly question.

But inside we went, where I tried to stay busy and checked the messages and occasionally called my good neighbor again. And again. But then!

I glanced out the window for the hundredth time and I saw two steers in my garden–they’d walked right through my lousy garden fence–and one taking tentative bites from the little branches of one of my dear little cherry trees.

That–was–IT. I had given my good neighbor every possible chance to come round up his wandering beasts. Now I was going to give Bea her turn. She was begging me to let her out of her kennel, whining, twisting, occasionally letting out a sharp little bark. I didn’t mind at that point if she took the cows to the next county. I just wanted them out of my garden.

I let The Bullet out. She was off like a shot (no pun intended)–down the stairs, crashing out the front door, and running as fast as her little legs could carry her toward those big black steers. Unafraid. Bold. Knowledgeable. Cunning! And very, very fast.

I wish you could have seen it, gentle reader. Though our little dog Bea had never had any training in herding, she rounded up those steers as efficiently and quickly as if she had been trained for just that task. She nipped at their heels, she barked and ran and rounded them up, chasing them–every one of them–through our yard, around the pond, and across the back pasture, straight to our neighbor’s pasture, where they were supposed to be in the first place. She stopped at our property line and gave a volley of sharp, joyful barks.

She had done it.

My, my, Bea.

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When she came running back, I promise you she was grinning. She let out an ecstatic bark. If she could have spoken people-language, she would have sang out “I was born to do this!” And actually, she was. She was accomplished and talented and wise and all-knowing about cattle-rounding-up, and she knew it.

With that, my favorite memory of Bea in mind, I’ll stop. Hug your little doggies tonight, hug them tight, no matter how prickly or oft-difficult or confusing they may be at times. They are a blessing.

*hugs*

 

13 thoughts on “So Long, Bea.

  1. Paul

    We just picked up a replacement old doggie from the SPCA yesterday, she is already home and knows it. Our other doggie departed us a couple of months ago and her companion has been lonely … so far they are getting along … kinda 🙂 !!!

    Nothing like an old rescue dog that needs a good home I say !

    Same with old peoples too !

  2. Kathleen Smalley

    My heart just aches hearing about Bea. It’s a wonder sometimes how much we can love our animals. We had two King Charles Cavaliers, brothers from the same litter. First they came down with the genetic defect of heart disease, then cataracts started, then one became diabetic. We had to send him to heaven last December because he was so ill. I’ve never cried so many days in my life! We still have Jesse, almost blind and deaf but loving and so happy always. Twelve years and counting and I can’t bear the thought of losing him. Bea was beautiful and I’m sure loved by everyone, maybe not the chickens!

    Hope you find another wonderful friend soon!!!

  3. Amanda

    I’m raising my hand high right now. I have a 12-year-old pug/beagle mix that has been by my side for the last 10 years (she was a rescue), and the gray in her face breaks my heart every time I look at her. It’s so hard to see dogs age. I’m so sad to hear of Bea’s passing, but I’m glad to hear that it was at least very peaceful. I loved reading your story about her, and the photos you shared are beautiful! Sending lots of hugs and comfort to you and your family.

  4. jules

    I am so sorry to hear about your Bea. I’ve lost many a good ole pet too. I am glad you have many good memories of her. Hold them and her close to your heart.

  5. Chef William Chaney

    I am very sorry to hear about your loss. I have only lost one dog to old age and that was when I was 10. I did lose a three month old puppy last year that I had become very attached too in a very short time. That was one of the only times in the past 24 years that my wife saw me break down an bawl like a baby…Even today when I see his picture my heart hurts for a while. We become attached, and like my nephew pointed out, they are not pets, they are family…It is a comfort that Bea passed comfortable in her own home……thanks for sharing your sorry with us.

  6. Sharon H

    I’m so sorry…ahem, it’s difficult to type with blurry, tear-filled eyes…
    Many years ago we lost our faithful, loving and protective “Scooter Dog”, when she decided it was time to go to Heaven. She came to us that bright and sunny morning, loved on us for awhile and was more playful than usual….then she slowly walked away to patrol the boundaries of the place like she always did. Only this time she never came back. I wish I’d known before she turned to go that was what she had planned. I’d have loved on her a little longer….

    Now, we have two miniature Dachshund brothers for the same litter. They turned 11 this May, and they have a life expectancy of 18-20 years. Of course there Re no guarantees of that….and I see them slowing down just a little and the one has a lot of gray in his face these days…make my heart ache knowing it will happen.
    But they still love as fiercely as they always have!

    Blessings to you and yours….savor the memories.

  7. Cindi Summerlin

    Crushed. My. Heart. You did. I lost my soul-dog a bit over a month ago. The day before my birthday and I’m not sure if I will ever stop crying. He was 12, and just as Sharon H said, he had been loving on us more that usual in the month preceding his death. He had a stroke and was gone in minutes, fighting to stay until I got home from getting him baby aspirin because I thought it was his hips and arthritis hurting. He was my hero and my everything. Literally my everything. I don’t know yet how to be anything without him.

  8. Joyce Rivera

    Oh, how sweet (and a tear-jerker)! I’m sure one of Bea’s favorite days was when she got to round up the cattle! I certainly know how hard it is to lose a four-legged friend/companion/child; however, how comforting that she was able to go in her beloved surroundings and that you didn’t have to make that dreaded decision. <3

  9. cookinmom

    We will always have the “remember when, moments” with our furry friends! I’m sure all the kids were saddened to hear as well. It’s never easy…

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