By Lyonel Doherty
I lost my best friend last week. His name was Bentley, all 100 pounds of him.
He was an eight-year-old purebred red retriever who loved playing tug of war with his “pookie” (stuffed animal).
Every time I brought home a new pookie he would get so excited that he nearly knocked me over trying to get it. And he wouldn’t let go until I pretended to lose interest . . . then I would nonchalantly saunter over and snatch it again to his sheer delight.
He died suddenly overnight on our living room carpet. I was devastated.
I took him for his favourite walk that day in the hills; he was happy and content. At 11 p.m. that night I called him from the backyard, but he wouldn’t come. So I got out my flashlight and found him laying down, staring straight ahead. I managed to coax him up the long flight of stairs and he lay down on the rug. Something was wrong because he was listless, yet he still wagged his tail when I spoke his name.
If I had known he was dying, I would have lay with him all night to give him comfort in his final hours.
He showed similar symptoms before, but he always bounced back the next day. I just thought it was a temporary illness like humans get all the time. Now I regret with heavy heart not taking him to the doctor when it happened the first time. I’m sorry, Bentley . . . you bum. (I called him bum sometimes.)
I feel robbed. I feel cheated for myself and for Bentley because we won’t have any more fun times together. No more walks to the park, no more chasing me when I took off running when he wasn’t looking. No more tugs of war with his pook.
What I wouldn’t give to rewind time so I could say goodbye to my best friend who never got angry with me, even when I got angry with him. One time I accidentally poked him in the eye and he turned and growled, but immediately gave me a look and a nudge to say he was sorry. And when he passed another dog without making a fuss, he looked at me for approval, as if to say, “I did good, didn’t I?”
Now he’s gone forever and all I have are memories in the wind. How the wind followed us home, and how it laughingly kissed our faces as we sat together on the school hill, watching the red sun and the children disappear in the dark.
Well, bum . . . I promise to take you for a walk again when it’s my time to say farewell.
PS: The other night Bentley came to my daughter in her dreams and gave her a hug in a grassy field before disappearing on a pathway into the sky.