Man's best friend

There’s a reason they call dogs man’s best friend. And I didn't fully understand it until a few years ago when we brought home our curious six-week-old golden retriever Sulley. As we’ve spent the last six years together, I’m embarrassed to admit that he’s dealt with more than his share of neglect. Yes, he gets plenty of food and water and sunshine and an occasional bath and a good round of frisbee, but when it comes to lovin’, I’m sure he could use some more.

This morning we received a disappointing phone call. Joy’s mom and her husband, who live in Charleston, South Carolina, were on the way to the vet to put their dog Bengie to sleep. I took the call, got the news, and then reluctantly handed the phone to Joy.

It was unexpected, but inevitable. He was 16 years old. That’s 112 in human years! He lived a great long life that was full of love from Joy and her mother and everyone else who knew him.

But still, it’s tough. He’s been with their family through thick and thin, always listening, always smiling, and always ready to snuggle.

I remember about 5 years ago, driving to NYC to visit Joy’s relatives. Fourteen hours in a car is enough to drive anyone berserk, but with a dog too… “you’ve got to be kidding?” I thought. Well, there Bengie sat. Sprawled out on the front seat between the driver and the passenger. Never a peep, just happy to be along. And to be honest, when it came my turn to take the wheel while everyone else slept, I rather appreciated his company beside me.

Then we hit one of New York’s infamous tollbooths. While the attendant meticulously made change, she looked at Bengie and said, “poor dog, what happened to him?” She was referring to his severely noticeable under-bite framed with two skinny teeth extruding from his lower jaw. Always the protective master, Joy’s mom snapped, “that’s how he came.” The rest of us laughed at the exchange.

Then a couple years later we moved to Florida. They were visiting and we came home one afternoon and Bengie was sitting in the middle of the dining room table. It wasn’t an exceptionally nice table, but it was our furniture and I was furious. But Bengie didn’t care. He was sunbathing. I yelled at him and he hopped down from the table and into the middle of the room where he laid down and returned to his nap.

Several years ago when I worked for the university, I was writing a magazine feature on faculty members and their pets. I remember very distinctly one professor stating, “I’ve never been so frustrated as I’ve been with my dog. But no matter how angry I get, he still loves me.”

He continued, “God obviously didn’t give dogs the ability to keep time because whether I’m away for 10 hours or 10 minutes he comes racing to the door with a toy in his mouth and a smile on his face. When it comes to personality my dog is everything I wish I was and more.”

Dogs weave their way into our hearts like very few things can. While humans sometimes become hateful and hardened, a good dog remains loyal for life.

That was Bengie. Happy. Satisfied. Loyal.


Jenna & Matt Walker said...

hey joy and garrett -
i'm so sorry to hear about benjie - your words on dogs "weaving their way into our hearts" is so true - and it is never easy to lose any pet. i hope you are both well and happy - matt and i are thinking of you all.

Brandy J Rammel said...

Ok you guys, I am sitting here in Iowa weeping b/c I miss our dog and need to hug him like you would not believe!!!! We have been gone so much lately and him (Willis) and our cats (Stew - who by the way we have decided that we should name Garrett b/c you look a little similar - and CJ) have been so neglected. But like you said, everytime that we come home they are just as, if not more in love with us than before we left. Man, we can learn so much from animals!!!

Thank you so much for this post!! Our pets mean the world to us and it is always wonderful to read a story such as Benjie's. Our hearts go out to you guys - such great stories you have all becuase of this awesome furry friend:-)

MsB said...

I have been checking out your blog site for days ever since I discovered you off Gene Higa's site. You are awesome at what you do, and I'm embarrassed to say that I don't really leave comments. But, this time, I just had to because I also have a furry friend at home who waits for me patiently, even when my husband and I are gone for hours.

You're right, we say there's enough food and water for them, but that's just not enough. A few rubs of affection is definitely not enough ... they want more because they deserve more. They love us when we wake up with sleep in our eyes, in the day when we're away at work, and at night when we wind down and are too busy for them because we're still working. But, they love us all the same even when we're not around.

They follow us the kitchen when we finally step away from the computer, then to the bathroom, then back to the kitchen, maybe to the couch to watch TV with us, and then back to the computer for another long night of "nonsense." Whatever we do and wherever we go, our furry friends are always at our heels. They love us unconditionally and they are God's gift to us so we should never forget that. They are never too busy for us. Their time with us is short-ended and we cannot lose what gift we have with them now.

(I'm crazily hugging my dog as we speak, or as I type. She's a blessing, and I defend her at the drop of a dime regardless if her breed is not highly admired.)

Jim Cook said...

What an awesome tribute to Bengie! It is sad when any pet's end comes.

I have a hard time seeing you furious. Please video yourself the next time you are furious so I can see what it looks like.

Anonymous said...

I weep with you at the loss of beloved Bengie. I too have lost a wonderful dog, Bobo, after 12 years, and it is almost as hard as losing a child. Thank you for your wonderful tribute to all our wonderful pets.


Chris Uglanica said...

Hey Garrett and Joy,

now I feel like a heel, after having given Codie, our Chocolate Lab/Dalmation heck for barking at the door a few minutes ago.

Dogs are wonderful, and that professor you mentioned is right. They don't keep track of time. They are there for us whenever we need them.

Anonymous said...

Awwww... my husband & son had to put our cat to sleep as I was traveling home from Florida & Elevate. It has left an empty spot in our home. Sending best wishes for Joy's family!

kaitlin said...

Your comments are so true. I don't think I realized for a long time how much a dog in our home could mean! I finally took the plunge and got one just over a year ago, and somehow now there are two (the second adopted US). No matter what we do or say - crazy, off-the-wall, whatever, they simply look at us as though we couldn't be any more perfect for them. Even after such a relatively short period of time, I know a day will come when they too will pass.

Great tribute to Bengie, especially for all of us dog-lovers.