April 7, 2013

Loved & Lost: Old Dogs

Ever since I was a little girl, I've been a dog lover. I've also been known to root for, adopt and/or fall in love with the underdog (both those in human and dog form). Sometimes this means I end up doing things against my better judgment. One of those things was adopting a 14-year old Yorkshire Terrier named Bentley in summer of 2011.

{Leon (75 lbs) & Bentley (7.5 lbs)} 
My southern beau was in a unique situation. A local family had moved to a different state and left their dogs behind in the care of dog-sitters while they tried to sell their house and settle their affairs. Phillip (my beau) was one of the dog-sitters. It became apparent that not all of the family's dogs were to be moving with them, including Bentley, who Phillip was instructed to surrender to the pound.

Apparently the family didn't think he would survive the move and they saw this as their only option.

I'll never forget when Phillip called to tell me this whole sordid tale.

"There's this little dog, Bentley," he said. "And they want me to just dump him at the pound. And I know the pound will take one look at him and think he's not a good candidate for adoption. It's the end of the road for this guy."

I remember asking him if he knew of anyone who might be willing to take the dog.

"That's why I'm calling you," he said.

Oh brother.

And that's how I ended up with a shoe box full of stinky, gnarling, poop-matted fur in the form of a 7-pound geriatric dog.

After a proper bath and haircut (plus getting him up to date on all his shots), Bentley looked quite presentable. I knew his days might be numbered...he was, after all, 14. But I thought, what the heck? I can give this little guy a good life, even if he doesn't have much time left.

I never dreamed he would live almost two years. During that time, he had a loving home. He traveled. He met lots of people. He was cared for. I felt like it was the least I could do.

{my Me-me, a southern grandma, holding Bentley during a family outing} 
Last week, Bentley started showing signs that things weren't quite right. He repeatedly lost control of his bowels. He was barely eating and drinking, despite my most earnest pleas. And today, with his mum and dad (me and my southern beau) by his side, he passed away.

It's been hard and we'll be sad for awhile. But what encourages me is the human heart...and its capacity to love. I never planned on adopting a small crotchety dog with halitosis and chronic priapism (seriously). And on paper, it was probably not my smartest decision. And I never planned on him becoming such an integral part of our little motley crew.

But somewhere along the way in these past two years, my heart grew to include him. And the thing that makes me so happy is that even when those we love are no longer with us, the love we feel for them never leaves us. I have no idea what happens to dogs when they die. I want to believe they go to heaven. I just really don't know. What I do know is that we gave a little dog who was headed to the pound a good life for a couple of years. It doesn't make me special. It was just the right thing to do.

Puppies are adorable (Call me Captain Obvious). And it's a wonderful thing to raise a puppy and have him for years and years. But there are old dogs out there who need homes too. And maybe your home needs an old dog, just as mine did. Even though Bentley only stayed with us for two years, I hope he knew that we were his forever home.