Saturday, May 3, 2008

A Dog Named Bear


Marley & Me this will not be, but my dog was put down today and I thought I'd share some memories:

  • We got Bear when I was about 11 because my sister and my dad wanted a dog. Someone from my mom's work was looking to get rid of him; they had a new baby and thus no more need for him. They assured us that he was well trained, and he sat and shook hands, so we took him.

    Let's just say Bear's dalmatian half (the other half is black lab) immediately made itself known. For instance, despite being neutered, he displayed unmistakably male appetite with his blanket. That wasn't so bad, but when he tried to do the same thing with my sister's seven-year-old friends, we had more of a problem.

  • More than once, Bear succeeded through barking in diverting us from the kitchen long enough to help himself to our food. Nor were covering, elevation, or a combination of the two enough to keep him from delighting in our garbage.

  • In second grade, my sister was friends with twin girls whom we couldn't stand. Whenever they came over the noise was unbearable, and Dad and I would retreat to the backyard. One time when their father came to pick them up, Bear burst through with his front legs the glass panes in our front door . I'm not sure the twins came over again.

  • My dad loved Bear. In fact, every now and then he would inadvertently call me his name. He always felt terrible, and I might have given him a hard time, but I knew it didn't mean anything.

  • I'm skeptical that Bear felt pain. Whether a baseball to the head or a dashboard to the face, he never seemed to notice anything hit him.

    That includes the car accidents. A big Buick rolled down our street at about 25 miles per hour right into poor Bear. He ran off for three hours, but returned wagging his tail and happy.

    Another time a large black van hit him going about 40. Two broken legs, a fractured cranium, and a dislocated hip resulted. My parents decided to save him by acquiring $3,500 in credit card debt.

    He was basically fine. That was around Halloween, so we said the shuttlecock-shaped thing he wore to keep him from chewing on his cast was an astronaut costume. Thereafter my uncles affectionately called him "Dented Dog."

  • He would chase after our chickens for fun, but never attack them. Rodents weren't so lucky.

    The cats bossed him around.

  • Rather than walking him when I got home from school, I used to just let him loose. Apparently there was a female dog down the street that Bear was quite fond of. We discovered this when our neighbor visited on my Dad a large garbage bag. "Girl Scout Cookies?" he asked. Nope. Just poop that Bear had left as a display of affection on their lawn. (You'd think we could have talked before it got to that point.)

  • Bear probably pooped in the house over a hundred times. He knew it made us mad, so he hid it, which caused particular problems on the couple of occasions when he pooped in someone's bed.

  • I remember once when Bear dove down a nearly vertical hillside in pursuit of a hapless groundhog. Seizing it in his jaws, he shook it violently for a few seconds before casually discarding it. With dried blood streaked on his coat, he looked particularly pleased.
All I can say is, now that's a dog.

Why did we love this dog? He ate our food, soiled our house, barked frequently for no reason, required lots of attention, and brought expensive vet bills. On paper he was almost an unqualified detriment to our lives.

Yet all of these recollections are quite fond for me, and I'll bet that despite being freed from spending her lunch hour coming home to walk him, my mom will miss him not a little.

The fact is, he brought color to our lives. Somehow cleaning up after him, walking him, and feeding him, while when taken individually were merely chores, collectively they form part of a relationship with an animal. There's something wonderful about such a creature, so like a person and yet fantastically different.

These things of which I've written are a priceless part of my childhood. Far from being regrettable, they are a badge of uniqueness that I show you with pride.

This was my dog. And as his life was part of mine, so he is part of me.

Bear, Sam, Uncle Rob, with guest appearance by Pennsylvania.

1 comment:

anne-cara said...

A very large part of me wants to offer hugs. So, hugs are proffered.

But there's an eensy little part of me that can't get over the fact that you had chickens. Really?