“Do you have a dog?” I choked out between heavy sobs.
I had just hung up after a painful conversation with my parents. Our family dog couldn’t wait until I got back for spring break. The cancer had spread too far, she was bleeding internally. She was in pain. They just couldn’t wait for me. I wouldn’t have been fair.
Wiping my tear stained face with the back of my hand, I swiveled around in the chair to face Dan standing in the doorway.
“I do,” he said. “A yellow lab. His name is Bentley.”
“Tell me about him,” I said, my shoulders shaking and tears continuing to slide down my face.
Dan and I weren’t even dating yet. But I was falling in love with him in that nasty basement of Newcomb Hall where we both worked for the Cavalier Daily. We spent a lot of long nights together in that basement. And that night he sat with me on the mystery-stained couch and told me about Bentley as I cried for our family dog.
I knew I loved Dan. What I didn’t know was that I would love his dog.
I’m a dog person. I’ve always had a dog. I’ll always have a dog. Yep, there are plenty of times I’ve yelled a dog’s name followed by a GOD DAMN IT. But I love our dogs.
And I loved Bentley.
When I met Bentley he was about five-years-old. He was just coming out of most wild stage, and he was a big love. Dan always joked that Bentley was more excited to see me than him when we’d come home from school to visit.
That was true. And I rubbed it in.
“Bentley!” I’d call, letting myself in through my in-laws garage and into the kitchen. “Bentley! Come here!”
I’d sit with him on the floor, he’d push his way into my lap, look up at like he was in love. Dan would walk past and he didn’t even turn to look.
But there was this one time Bentley got mad at me. And he let me know.
Dan and I went to visit his mom and dad at their beach house in North Carolina. That evening we arrived, I sat at the table, enjoying a long catch-up chat with my mother-in-law, Maryellen.
Well. Bentley loves me. But his first, true love is Maryellen. And I was monopolizing her.
Maryellen and I sat at the kitchen table, chatting away while Bentley paced around with impatience. After a while he disappeared. And came out of the room I was staying in. With my underwear in his mouth.
“Who’s purple underwear is this?!” my father-in-law said.
Bentley laid there, with my purple underwear between his paws, with a look that said, yeah, I went through your things. And now I’m showing your underwear to everyone.
And then there was the time that Dan and his family had to go out of town for a funeral, and I stayed back to take care of Bentley. I planned to bring him to our condo, so my father-in-law insisted that I take his crate. So I headed over to get Bentley and his crate. When I arrived, I realized, I didn’t know how to break down the crate. If I couldn’t break it down, I couldn’t get it in my car.
Bentley sat in the kitchen, eyeing me as I messed with the crate. I jiggled it and pushed at it before giving up and sitting down the floor. Bentley came over and sat beside me, looking at me like I was the dumbest girl he’d ever seen.
I did finally get that crate disassembled. And Bentley spent the entire weekend sleeping on our bed.
And of course there was the time Maryellen, Dan, and I drove down to the beach with Bentley. And he slept on me in the backseat the entire drive. And the time he at 12 Costco muffins. And the time he ate all the raw ground beef. And the time my in-laws took a trip to Greece and Dan went out of town for work, so I was left to take care of Bentley solo, five days after Thomas was born. And the time Bentley and my parent’s dog, Baron, got into a canister of Nestle Chocolate Quik and ground the powder into the carpet. And also the time Bentley ate a box of Italian chocolates. Or the time he ate a travel neck pillow. Don’t forget about the time he and Baron sat in the backseat of my old Ford Escape, one on either side of Kate’s infant carrier, breathing heavily and panting in her face while she screamed. And also the time we tossed the ball for him at the beach, and as he went careening down the sand, he feel into a hole.
At fifteen-and-a-half, I’ve known Bentley almost all his life. For over 10 years, as Dan and I went through major life transitions, from dating to engaged to married to home owners to parents of three, there he was. Panting heavily and cruising the counters for baked goods. He served as a source of commonality for my mother-in-law and me, back when we didn’t know each other very well but we both loved Bentley.
Last week Maryellen messaged the family to tell us it was time. Bentley was 15.5 and he wouldn’t get up to eat. Or drink. And he didn’t want to go outside. He had trouble relaxing, he couldn’t get comfortable.
It was time.
We knew this day was coming soon. He was over 15-years-old! But we all cried like babies over that damn dog. The dog that ate entire loaves of bread and several helpings of cookies and various other carbs (carbs were always his favorite). As I sat down on my in-laws kitchen floor and stroked his head, I marveled at how much life we’ve all lived over these 10+ years, how we’ve all grown and changed, and how this dog meant so much to all of us. He was a special guy, our Mr. B. We know he’s eating lots of baked goods in heaven.