Comments Off on Reggie
Sep 142013

So, this happened.


Let’s back up a month. Actually, let’s back up ten months. The loss of Bentley was (and still is) a tough one for our family. Despite our sadness, Henry and Eleanor started talking not long after about “when we get another dog…”. Andy and I assured them that we’d consider that at some point, but for now we needed a break. I mean, we still cry about Bentley on a regular basis. And with all the travel we had lined up for summer, the fewer responsibilities we had, the better.

On our last summer trip, we spent the weekend with Andy’s siblings and their pets, including four dogs. The kids, especially Eleanor, were in heaven all weekend, usually with a pet or two by their side. Hmmm…, Andy and I started thinking. I like seeing how happy Henry and Eleanor are with a dog, but I’m not sure I’m ready for one yet, I said. I’m not sure either, but I don’t want the kids to associate having a dog only with loss, Andy said. Yeah, we agree that we want our kids to grow up with a dog, we both said. But then we came home and had to immediately throw ourselves into the first week of school, so the discussion seemed over.

Until the end of that week, when Andy came home from work on Friday. “So it was crazy at work until around 3:00…and then I got on Petfinder,” Andy admitted. “Um, so I might have been thinking about dogs today, too,” I concurred.

The rest of the evening was filled with what-ifs and are-we-sure-we’re-readys and staying up past midnight combing Petfinder for possibilities. Saturday morning, we called around on some available dogs that spurred our interest, and narrowed down some shelters we wanted to visit. Andy and I decided there’d be no harm in just checking things out, to test our readiness for a new family member.

We’d told Henry and Eleanor all along that they’d be involved in any pet decisions when the time came; pet ownership was a commitment of many years and therefore would be a decision we’d all need to make together. Andy and I gave Henry and Eleanor another lecture of “we’re just looking today, we probably will come home with no dog, JUST LOOKING I REPEAT JUST LOOKING” to try to temper the DOG!DOG!DOG!!1! mode they immediately went into.

And so we spent six or seven hours that Saturday, in every corner of the city, checking out possible pooches. We met a few great ones, but none that seemed like The One. Late afternoon, we found ourselves on the same side of town as the Humane Society, and on a whim decided to end our day there.

A medium-sized, friendly-looking, 1-year-old lab/retriever mix named Reggie was the last dog that caught our eye. We took him outside to a kennel to run around and get acquainted. He was friendly to the kids and didn’t seem too bark-y. Andy seemed to have That Look on his face. “Is he giving you Dog Feelings?” I asked. “Yeah, he kinda is.” “Me, too, darnit.”

At this point it was only twenty minutes until the daily deadline to turn in adoption paperwork. Worried we’d miss out on a great dog, we took Reggie back inside and filled out our forms. Luckily when we met with the adoption counselor, she explained we could place a 24-hour hold on Reggie. Which we needed—we hadn’t expected to get a dog that day, and needed a night to prepare our house for a new arrival.

Within a minute of waking up Sunday morning, we heard Eleanor tell Henry, “let’s clean our room so Reggie doesn’t get our toys!” The kids were beyond excited, so we arrived at the Humane Society right as they opened. A few more consultations later, we walked out with our new family member. “Dogs are just terrific,” Henry remarked as we pulled out of the parking lot.

Despite Andy’s and my explanations of how you don’t have to keep the name pets come home with—like, Simon was Horace, we were not going to spend 15 years calling a cat Horace—the kids shot down all of our alternate suggestions, insisting we stick with Reggie. So officially, and somewhat reluctantly, he’s Reginald Barksdale. (And if you catch that Wire reference, well, that’s why we’re friends.)

With the exception of Millie, who just showed up and claimed us, all of our pets have come from the Humane Society. Reggie seems to continue our winning streak of adopting great shelter pets. We got him home and immediately he acted like he’d always been ours.







He’s still more of a puppy than I thought he’d be, but that means we have a dog that loves fetch and running in the yard and playing with the kids. Although the Humane Society vetted him for good behavior around cats, we were a little nervous about how well he’d do with Simon and Millie. Turns out, he looooooooves them. The cats aren’t too enamored of Reggie’s occasional attempts to play, but they’re adjusting.

And while I admit I might have not been 100% ready for a new dog, the love Henry and Eleanor show for Reggie erase any doubts. I mean, this is worth having to get back into the routine of caring for another creature:

Eleanor Reggie

So while Bentley is still very much loved and missed, our new guy is on his way to making a special place in our hearts and becoming a great companion to Henry and Eleanor’s childhood.




Oct 162012

In January of 2002, Andy said he was ready for another dog, after experiencing the loss of Kramer the previous fall. He missed the routine of taking care of a dog, he said. I agreed, and laid down my ground rules. Small dog, I demanded. Small and very low shedding.

We left the Humane Society shortly afterwards with a hairy 60-pound dog.

January 6, 2002

Who could blame us? After working our way through the younger dogs without bonding with any of them, we stopped at the kennel of a kind-looking 3-year-old. What the heck, we said. Let’s meet him, too. They took us into the “get acquainted” room and brought in the tan-and-white dog. One pat on the head and he flopped on his back, totally chill, wanting to snuggle. We’ll take him! we announced.

He was so excited and eager to please, that when we took him out to the car, he enthusiastically jumped up onto the hood. Oh wait, that probably wasn’t right, you could see him thinking, as he slooooowly slid back down to the parking lot. We guided him to the car’s back seat and went home to start our new life as a family.

The Humane Society listed him as part English Setter, part English Springer Spaniel. So we named him Bentley, not after the car, but the British neighbor on The Jeffersons. We later realized they were probably wrong, but never really figured out his breed (or mix of them). When we’d get the oh, he’s beautiful, what kind of dog is he comments, we’d answer, Fluffy.

Shortly after we got Bentley, we discovered that a) he needed knee surgery and b) we were moving from Champaign to Indianapolis. Had we known we were moving, we likely wouldn’t have adopted a new pet, and had the Humane Society known he had a torn meniscus, they might not have made him available. I’m forever grateful for our ignorance (and theirs).

We quickly settled into life with one another, most of our time together spent snuggling. Almost all of our early photos of him are with some family member, locked into some sort of embrace.

We’d never met a dog who was so loving, and laughed when he’d repeatedly nudge his nose under your arm if you stopped petting him. We’d also never met a dog who never barked. He’d occasionally bark in his sleep, and the noise would always startle me, to hear such a deep voice on such a sweet boy.

After our move to Indy, we felt guilty that Bentley was having to spend more time by himself, so we got him a companion, a little one-pound kitten we named Simon (middle name George, to complete the Jeffersons reference). We were told to keep them separate at first, to go slowly on the introductions. Our first day home with the cat, Simon jumped right over the baby gate to meet his new brother. They were best friends from day one.

July 2002

October 4, 2012 

2003 through 2007, the worst years of our lives, have been well documented here. What hasn’t been documented is how much Bentley and Simon got us through them. It seems melodramatic to say I don’t know how Andy and I would have survived without them, but it’s true. As our miserable days grew into years, some times the only reason to get out of bed in the morning was for a nose nudging under our arm, demanding love and giving unconditional love in return.

The day Sam and Emilie were born, Bentley was outside with my sister. When she opened the door to her car, Bentley hopped in and refused to leave. I don’t know how pets know, but they do.

When Henry and Eleanor came along, Bentley was of course wonderful with them. He had endless patience with their often toddler-rough attention, and endless patience with Andy and I as we frequently had less time for just him when a child or two needed our immediate care.

This summer his spells of heavy panting seemed to get more frequent. After a couple trips to the emergency vet in August, it was determined Bentley had laryngeal paralysis. He wasn’t a good candidate for surgery to correct it, so we started a new routine of limiting his activity. We knew at some point we’d have to make the decision to say good-bye, but it was tough. When he wasn’t struggling for breath, he was fine, the same happy Bentley we’ve always known. We hoped we could maintain the status quo and eke out as much time with him as we could.

Last week he started have more breathing spells. Late Friday night, apropos of nothing, he started having his third of the day. This one seemed worse than the others, and Andy and I huddled around him on the kitchen floor, watching him struggle for breath and quickly deciding that although we weren’t ready, the time to let him go had probably arrived. I sobbed a rushed good-bye, Andy whisked him off to the vet, and an hour later it was over.

He was our Bentley, Mr. B, Bentleyburger, B-man, Mr. Crossypaws.

He had the most expressive brown-rimmed eyes and a heart-shaped nose. He was deaf the last year or two of his life. He never really played with toys. He preferred the people at the dog park (and their attention) to the other dogs. He loved cold weather, it would make him prance on his winter walks. He got car sick until he grew out of it in his old age. He loved to run back and forth between Andy and me in the back yard. He never swam except to chase the ducks at Andy’s brother’s family’s house. He went to bed at 9:00 every night, and sighed before he went to sleep. He lounged in ridiculous ways, our favorite the “rock on Bentley” pose.

He was the kindest, gentlest, most unconditional-loving soul I’ve ever known. Despite the fact that I just wrote a novel, there aren’t enough words to describe how much Bentley meant to our family. And there aren’t enough words to describe how much we miss him.