Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Goodbye, Beau

Our little dog, Beau, who is the son I never had, and my best friend, is very ill. We have made our last walk around the block together, and in a little while it will be time to say goodbye. He lies here beside me, as I type these words, and I'm not ashamed to say it's not easy typing with eyes full of tears.

The picture above represents a nice part of who Beau has always been. For whatever reason, almost every dog in our neighborhood, and all the people who walk with them, have always loved Beau.

Here has been my wonderful dog child, always and deservedly the center of attention. He could be so much fun, give so much pleasure. He was cute and humorous and at times even sly. He gave us his unconditional love.

We've been together, Beau and I, for well over 15 years. He longevity has been a neighborhood marvel. So often a neighbor we haven't seen in a while will say, "Is that Beau? He's still here?" It happened just a week ago.

We have been on one hundred adventures and more together, Beau and I. He's traveled wherever I could take him, from the mountains, where he sniffed the flowers in the meadows, to the beach, where he liked to race over the sand along the edge of the water. We've slept in campgrounds, and motels, in my car, and in lovely bed and breakfasts, which, after a few minutes, he figured he was in charge of. I've held him under my arm as I pedaled my bike up or down the street to find where neighbors were congregating with their dogs, so that Beau could join in the fun.

When he was a puppy, Beau taught me that he didn't want to five walks up and down the street over the course of the day. He wanted five blocks in the morning, when he knew all his dog friends were about, and the smells were at their freshest. We could come to a street corner, I'd lean down and say, "Which way do you want to go, Beau," and he would pick the direction.

With Rebecca

Every day that I've been home for more than a decade and a half, I have held Beau in my arms. Last night, when he could no longer walk, and barely stand, I carried him up and down our street, taking Beau for a walk, rather than the other way around. I set him down carefully here and there, to let him sniff the grass and trees for a few moments. The he would stand immobile, except for his tail, which he wagged, to let me know he wanted me to carry him again. And so we had our final walk.

When Beau chose to live with us, showing up out of nowhere for us to take him in, and to take care of us, he slept with our daughters, Rebecca and Nora, the first night, who of course wanted to keep him. I didn't want him. We had cats, after all. My wife, Kathy, though, knew he needed to be rescued. She always knows better than me. From my daughter's room, Beau looked up from the bed he was on, and barked at me as I walked by, with that big bark of his that came out of his small body.

Above: Somehow Beau conned me into carrying him around a mountain meadow in my daypack

The next night, after I had spent the days walking and playing with him, feeding him, and looking futilely for his "real" home, Beau slept with my daughters again. He raised his head again as I headed down the hall, but did not bark. On the third night, he was sleeping with me, and it's been that way ever since, me, my wife Kathy, and Beau. Nor would he leave my side. He followed me everywhere. He knew when I was leaving on a trip (and sometimes jumped into my van and didn't want to come out).

I remember when he followed me into the bathroom. "Beau, this is my private time," I explained to him gently. "No one is allowed in here." Beau, though, would not take no for an answer, and so we went into the bathroom together. If I picked the bathroom in the rear of the house, he'd find his way there, and push on the door to join me.

As active as he has always been, Beau has also been in the running for the most relaxed dog award every year since we've had him. He could sleep anywhere, and there were many times I rocked him to sleep in my arms.

Pretending to be fierce. He would never bite another dog or a person.

So many photos of him, I see, are of him napping. I'm not sure he ever slept, for it seems as if he did keep one eye cocked, ready to bark at the mailman. Asleep in the car, he could smell a campground he hadn't been to in a year from a mile away, and suddenly start sniffing frantically at the window, crying a little, because he knew he was about to enjoy a walk in the wilderness.

Beau, whenever you leave us, I know you will find yourself in your new home. I know you won't miss us, although I will miss you. You will be with your old dog friends, who are waiting for you to join in the play on someone's big front yard. You will have many new friends to play with, too, and lots of time to nap and smell and walk. I know, in your new home, you will always be the center of attention, just as you will always be in my heart.

Rest for now and rest well, my friend, my child, my dog.

Beau writ large: click on a photo.

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