I wrote a few weeks ago about the bond that exists between a man and his tractor. I likened the relationship to that which existed between a cowboy and his horse back in the days of the wild west. In my effort to wax poetic about my beloved farm machinery, I failed to mention another bond that exists - that between a man and his dog. In this case, my little sidekick, Beazer. She came to us via the local dog pound probably 14 years ago as best Paula and I can remember. And she has been at my side - in spirit if not in body - every day for those many years. Until today.
I buried Beazer this evening.
Beazer is short for Beelzabub, the hound from hell. She was built like a pit bull - only she was smaller - and had the look of a bird dog. She was mostly black with a few white splotches and a white tip on her tail. We called her pedigree "All American Shorthair," which means, translated, that she was a mix of about every breed imaginable. She got her name because of her attitude toward strangers and her obstinacy. She had a particular hatred for the UPS man, and, in her younger years, I had to pull her away from him many times. Beazer didn't care for the vultures that soared past our windows here on the mountain either. Or the raccoons. Or possums. Or stray cats, chipmunks, squirrels...
Beazer and I had a special relationship. I can't explain why. I was always tougher on her than either my wife or my daughter ever were. And Paula often accused me of ignoring her when Beazer came looking for some attention. But Beazer always came. If a number of us entered the house together, after having been away for a period of time, here Beazer would come to greet us. She had this annoying, ear-splitting yelp, yelp, yelp when she came up to people she knew - well, perhaps not so annoying anymore. But she would always come looking for me. She would work her way through the crowd, even as others were calling out to her, to greet me first. Only then did she devote time to the others.
And there was another bond that Beazer and I had, although I'll not be able to explain it. She and I could go up the mountain together and, as dogs often do, she would disappear into the forest. I would lose track of her but keep on going. It was fascinating that, no matter in which direction I went, she would always find me. She was always there with me. When I sat here at my computer, she would come in and lay on the carpet next to me. If I moved into the living room, she would get up and move with me.
There came a point several months ago when Beazer was no longer able to make it up the mountain. She got too feeble. Truth be known, I quit going up the mountain too. As you could imagine, it was because I couldn't leave ol' Beaz behind, knowing how much she enjoyed the adventure and knowing that she knew where I would have been heading. She always knew. And I couldn't disappoint her. Her health began to fail recently, and we knew the end was coming.
I think this will be the last time I ever think of Beazer in her final years. From this point on, I'm going to remember her when she was young and in perfect health. When she could easily outrun me. When she ran in the yard in circles as I pretended to try to catch her. How she loved the attention. That I guess, when you come down to it, is what cements the bond between a man and his dog. I appreciated her companionship; she craved my attention. I am struggling with that thought as I write this.
It's easy at this point to say something like, "Well, life goes on." But that doesn't quite work for me tonight. A part of my life is - forever - buried on Big Walker Mountain.
* Originally published on July 18, 2004