January 17, 2009

Bernice “Fuzzybutt” 1996-2009

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 9:04 pm by vrtrakowski

Cut for mourning

My mother broke her ankle fairly spectacularly in 1997, just before my brother and I returned from overseas. It took her the summer to heal, and she decided that she needed another dog so that she would be made to walk and so keep herself limber. So we (I was still living at home at the time) put out feelers to local Sheltie rescue groups.

Bernice was about a year and a half old when we were introduced. Mom and I have argued gently for years over whether she was a purebred or not; I claim that there is some whippet in there, given the length of her legs and most especially her muzzle, but it’s immaterial. She was sweet and beautiful, with a bad case of separation anxiety and a howl like an air raid siren (started low and just kept climbing). She’d been hit with a brush at some point, to judge by her flinches when groomed, and she liked children.

Within two weeks she had figured out that she needed to expand her vocabulary to communicate with us, and did. She never got the training we kept planning to give her, and she never quite lost the separation anxiety, though she got much better about it. The lady who found her wandering–lost, or abandoned–named her Susie, but we thought that too common. We were going to call her Ariel, after the sprite from The Tempest, due to her grace, but then someone pointed out that that was the name of Disney’s Little Mermaid. So my father proposed Bernice, on the grounds that he had an Aunt Ariel and an Aunt Bernice, and we did it to please him, as he didn’t really want a dog.

Later he claimed that it was due to Bernice-the-dog’s desire to mind everyone’s business, much like that of his aunt, though Fuzzybutt was much nicer about it. We never did tell my great-aunt that we’d named the dog after her, and just as well, most likely.

Bernice loved her family, her pack, and she was always willing to expand that circle, as a couple of you know. She loved toast corners and cheese and pretty much anything anyone else was eating. She liked children and would let them haul her around; she loved to herd, though she never knew how to do it properly. She liked the leaf blower and playing I-will-bite-you, and she always tempered her teeth to the person with whom she played–lightly for me and Mom, harder for my brother, harder still for my father in his work gloves.

She would lie a-couched at the top of the back stairs to survey her kingdom; she would chase squirrels, though she never caught one; she would guard my mother’s cat despite Saufie’s teasing. While I was still home, she shared my bed and once even my pillow. She adored my mother and loved the rest of us as much as we would permit. She had terrible gingivitis and lost half her teeth eventually. And it didn’t matter that I didn’t live in her house any more; I was still part of the pack.

And she kept my mother walking.

Over the last couple of years she slowed down, in large part due to arthritis. She grew stouter and slower, though never really fat. She lost some of her hearing, though as Dad pointed out, it actually made her quieter when she could no longer hear the doorbell. And then she started, recently, to have seizures. The first was tentatively attributed to her tick meds, but then she had more. She was given phenobarbitol, but it made her too groggy. And over the last couple of weeks her legs began to give out.

So today my mother and I took her to the excellent vet practice not too far away, and they euthanized her while we sat with her.

And I am weeping for her as I did not for my aunt or my brother’s friend or even my grandmother, and I can’t articulate why, though I do know.

They say all dogs go to heaven. I expect to have her barking delightedly to welcome me there.

Bernice

You who know
Who see the soul
Shining in lambent eyes
Who hold the love
That knows no edges
And return it
In full measure

You who strive
To deserve the trust
Who are sun
To some furry planet
The light of their lives
Of all their days
Their reasons

You do know
Beyond all scorn
The truth of love
That needs no words
You always know
There’s no such thing
As just
A dog

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