This is my family’s dog, BG. It’s short for Baby Girl, which is a ridiculous name, but you know how dog names go – they get the one that seems to fit. And this one seemed to fit.
My daughter Erica and I went to Pratt to buy her when my son Mitch was seven years old. It was a surprise for his birthday. He’s nearly 19 now. She was the runt, the unhealthiest pup in the litter, but she’s also the one that caught our hearts. I think she wiggled over to us and licked our hands, and that was about all it took.
She died last night, sadly, alone. Mitchell found him when he got home from work and running errands. The day before she had been playing with my granddaughter Lila, acting like she wasn’t sick at all.
In the years in between, she went between driving us mad to showing us more undeserved love than we could have ever imagined. She kept us warm in the winter, and too hot in the summer when she still insisted in climbing up in bed.
She crapped on the floor more than she should have. She got into the trash all the time, and often strung it all over the place. Nothing seemed to keep her out of it. We locked it up, and she’d figure out the lock. We’d hide it and she’d smell it out. That dog seemed both brilliant and like she was functioning with half a brain most of the time.
In her younger days, she could clear a 6-foot privacy fence in a single jump without much trouble at all. Then she’d run all over the neighborhood, scaring the hell out of everyone because her oversized jowls would fill with saliva. Someone once recoiled because she thought BG was rabid. She was just excited. If you tried to get her, it turned into a game, where she would stop long enough for you to get close, maybe even let you think that you’d catch her, before she’d run off again, almost smiling.
My most outstanding memory of BG happened at Kanopolis lake, probably in 2004 or so. We were all camping, and I had run up to the store to get some ice for the cooler. When I returned, I saw my then-wife, Kim, and my daughter Erica on the shorelines screaming toward the water. At first I couldn’t see Mitch, and I worried that he had decided to jump into the lake. He had a tendency to do reckless things when he was that age. It turned out, though, that BG had chased a bird, and when there was no more land to run on, she swam. To about the middle of the lake. She finally turned around and made her way back to shore, exhausted and without her prey. I’ve never seen a dog so tired, or seen one sleep so long.
Another was the time Erica decided to fill my back pants pocket with potato chips. I couldn’t figure out why BG was following me around with her nose right up on my backside – until I saw the kids laughing.
The most consistent thing about her, however, was that whole body wiggle she did every time she saw you. It was like that bobbed tail wasn’t enough to wag so she shook the entire lower half of her body instead. It was just one of the ways you knew she loved you and was glad to see you – like she was convulsing because she was so excited that she got to see you.
This dog was hit by a car on one of her excursions. She tried to jump off a cliff. She ate shoes, a light bulb, part of a saxophone, nearly two pounds of chocolate, sandwiches and leftovers that she nabbed from the kitchen counter. It seemed like she pissed on every new piece of furniture we ever bought.
But there were also the times that she’d curl right up to you when you felt bad, or when she’d stand in front of you with a tennis ball in her mouth waiting for you to get off the couch. Or the times that she’d look at you and almost seemed to smile, or laugh. There was the way she sat at the front of the fishing boat, legs extended and head high, soaking up all the wind. And the times that she’d run circles around you at the ball diamond down the street. She had this way of making you feel better, and of getting your forgiveness, even if she had been rotten. She was ornery, just like us.
I didn’t get to see much of BG in the past couple of years after getting divorced. She seemed to grow excessively old in that time, and had developed a number of health problems. She was old for a Boxer, but up until the end, it seems, she had a youthful spirit. And love for everyone, even if they didn’t deserve it.
This morning, we said goodbye and gave her a proper burial. She certainly wasn’t a perfect dog, but we weren’t perfect people or a perfect family. That was no matter to BG, she loved us all the same. We all stood around and agreed that after all these years of running amock, eating things that weren’t food, and getting herself into trouble, it was a miracle that she ended up dying of old age. We buried her with a last bone, and a small bag of trash, which Mitch thought seemed fitting for her.
And even though there were times I was mad at her, and didn’t want her around me because she had caused me a great deal of trouble with her running off or tearing something up, she never, ever felt the same way about me, or anyone. And that’s a good dog.