Thursday, May 3, 2012

Goodbye, Old Friend

Twice in the past 30 days I made one of the most difficult choices ever.  The first time I chickened out.  The second time? I wish now that last Saturday I had driven right past the vets office and come home.  Old Bingo, who had been with us for the best part of fourteen years has moved on to the great dog park in the sky.  I hope it is full of all the things he loved: a comfy chair, old socks, trees to pee on, deer and rabbits to chase, dog biscuits, a chicken cutlet... maybe now he can snore as loud as he wants.  And bark at the doorbell, just like he did before his hearing went.  To say he will be missed is an understatement.  There is a hole in our lives where that old boy once shuffled.

He hailed from Briggs, TX.  Looking back, it was probably a puppy mill and the "breeders" were definitely a little rustic.  Making conversation with the owners, one old coot hearing me talk mistook "Dell" for "Dale" and thought I knew a family friend.  I remember picking Bingo from the litter because he came right up to me, friendly as can be.  That was to be always his way.

Back in Round Rock, he was christened Bingo and Sheila was faced with the challenge of helping train a puppy as well as care for the newly arrived Kevin.  I think it was Fiona that came with the O.G.N.I.B. song...

Two highlights of his career happened days apart in July 2004.  He joined me on the long drive from Texas to Connecticut.  He rode shotgun in the F150 and seemed genuinely interested in our progress, frequently sitting up and scanning the horizon, sensing change.  Along the way, I stopped for gas and a bite to eat.  I bought a chicken cutlet sandwich from the gas station and left it on the center console while I filled the truck.  Jumping back into the cab, there was no welcome from Mr. Bingo, instead he stared out the passenger window.  He could not look me in the eye.  He had eaten the chicken and left the bread.  I yelled at him a bit and for at least three hours he would not look my way.  He was the picture of guilt!  It was so funny and impossible not to love him.  He was blessed with a healthy appetite!

Later that night I stayed at what turned out to be a Hillbilly Hotel and I was sure glad to have him for protection.  He was not big, but he was brave.  This was where I met a giant of a man wearing bib overalls - with no shirt - he was in town for a family reunion. I asked where was he from (expecting some distant county or state). His response of "Way up the road about three miles" threw me for a loop.  I was glad old Bingo slept on my bed that night, in case Clete came a-knockin'.

The second incident was at Aunt Colleen's just a day or so later.  Bingo had never been up close to a cat before and decided Jinx was nothing more than a weird looking dog.  Well Jinx had other ideas and gave Bingo a NY welcome with extended claw - to the big old floppy Beagle ear.  He howled and backed up and then proceeded to bleed like the proverbial stuck pig.  The poor hound never knew what hit him.

He loved Southbury.  The dog park was nearby and there was so much sniffing to be done.  Every now and then I would let him chase deer and he would come back exhausted.  We got Tex in 2008 and Bingo never as much as looked at him funny but immediately took him in and even shared his chair.  He was not crazy about the snow but would always dutifully scratch at the door when it was time to go outside.  Every evening he would literally tiptoe up the wooden stairs (trying to quieten his claws) and sleep on our bed.  Manys the winter night he warmed it up for us!

By the time we moved back to Texas in 2009 he was going gray but was still lively, although the snoring was now approaching volcanic levels.  He started to develop large cysts and towards the end stopped going upstairs.  He became very stiff and the poor old devil had no stamina.  A walk was out of the question.  It was sad to see the way he jealously looked at Tex as we headed off for a constitutional.  His hair was falling out and he was almost fully deaf.  His eyesight was going as well.  And despite all this, he loved nothing better than a belly rub and responded with warm licks and a nuzzle.

Bingo, I hope dog heaven is freaking awesome because no dog deserves it more.

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