He died peacefully cradled in my arms, the last sound he heard being my voice speaking to him softly: “It’s okay, buddy, it’s okay…” We had been inseparable for almost 20 years and in those years experienced a lifetime together.
Like so many good things often do, he came into my life unexpectedly. Arriving home from work one day, my wife announced she had something she wanted to show me. From the car she produced a small black furry bundle and sat it down in the floor. The bundle, a black puppy. She told me she had found him that afternoon wandering outside the school where she taught. “He was running around with some other stray adult dogs, just like he was one of them,” she said hopefully. Unsure if I was ready for another dog, I watched dubiously as the energetic pup set about inspecting the place, sniffing legs of chairs and peering into the kitchen. When he came over to inspect my shoe, I reached down and shook him playfully; he immediately latched onto my pant leg and began to pull vigorously. “OK”, I thought to myself, all doubts immediately swept aside, “I guess you’ll do.”
Thus began a new, sometimes stormy chapter in our lives as a family. Beau would be a house dog by necessity, spending a great deal of time indoors. This took some adjustment. Not liking to be left alone, he frequently took his revenge by attacking various inanimate objects in the house. Always an inveterate hater of stuffed toy animals – the mere sight of them brought blood to his eyes - he once decapitated the head of a large decorative fabric rabbit belonging to my wife, ghoulishly arranging the ears and eyes around the living room floor. Mostly, though, he went after my things. Having already eaten several of my sweaters that first year, he decided one day to go straight for the jugular by dragging out a box of my favorite paperbacks, ripping it open, and vigorously chewing up several volumes, presumably those titles he most disliked. Gave a whole new meaning to “dog-eared.” Weighing less than 15 pounds and no bigger than a breadbox, he was nonetheless always up for a fight, regardless the opponent’s size. As such, I was forced on more than one occasion to quite literally drag him from the field of battle before being mauled to death. On another occasion, I had to pull his head out of a hole as he attempted to follow a rodent into its den, his jaws snapping and a crazed look on his clay smeared face.
With all that said, I now come to what I really wanted to say at the start. Never was there a more faithful companion or better friend than this little mixed breed terrier we called Beau. Through the many years we spent together, through the ups and downs of living, the illnesses, the accidents, the happy times and the sad, he was always there for me. Regardless of my mood or the season, blind to the vicissitudes of my sometimes selfish and thoughtless behavior, he remained steadfastly committed to me, seeing me through every crisis and every disappointment. Days when things weren’t going well, his antics, like the black birds in the Robert Frost poem, had a way of lifting my spirits and so “has given my heart/A change of mood/And saved some part/Of a day I had rued.” That was my dog Beau, always coming to my rescue, far more than I ever came to his. In providing him a home and shelter, he returned the favor a thousand times over through his devotion, his patience, and, above all, his good company. After all this time I still miss him and sometimes dream we are together again walking in some green open space. Humorist Will Rogers once said that if dogs don’t go to heaven, then he wanted to go where they do. Oh yes. Yes.