In honor the of the Bogg family.

After surveying the wall with cages three-up and ten-across for about twenty seconds, I said, pointing at a cage up high with four in it, “This brown one is a winner.” He was making direct eye contact with me, wagging his little cropped tail (which pointed straight up unless he was ashamed, and which never got longer than 4 inches at full growth), and he was climbing all over his brothers. It was obvious he had no fear.

We were at a place called Place To Buy Pets, a not-for-profit spread of fenced fields, barns, a petting zoo and other barn-like structures converted for various purposes, where disabled kids are offered day care, training, education, and jobs. We were dog shopping in the pet store.

She needed a dog. A gypsy product of a father who climbed the corporate ladder so well he retired comfortably at 49, and a mother to whom your classic maternal instincts did not come naturally or easily at the time, my new 26 year old like/lust-interest was what many twice-moved during high school adolescent girls with physical self-conscious issues (made even more traumatic, I’m sure, by her natural beauty, and appearance-oriented mother.) would have been like: An emotional island; tough; very private; closed to a fault. Informed by the TV age of her time, she also carried around the chronic cynicism, apathy, and spectacular inability to find sincere positive emotion in anything without the scoffing so common in her generation. Truly a glass-half-empty soul. Clinically depressed, her adolescence, of course, was a nightmare for all involved parties. Despite her obvious intelligence, she didn’t get though college until she was 25. There are other horrific details, but this isn’t about her. I liked her because she was interesting and terribly insightful and honest about her own demons, something I find precious and rare.

Her boyfriend when I met her served essentially the same purpose as a dog. She told me straight up that she didn’t love him, but would consider marrying him because “he might be the only man who will ever want to marry me.”

Shocked, worried, and even mildly offended by this (Never married at 42, I am her polar opposite in this regard), and ever sensitive, I eventually told her to, “…get a fucking DOG, they’re less trouble, and you don’t have to spend a lifetime regretting one!,” along with many other similar pearls of delicate wisdom. I was surprised the day she told she wanted to do it.

The only requirement was size, based on her little townhouse. I was afraid she would settle on what I referred to as either a “fufu dog”, or “punting dog,” one like a poodle or schnauzer who was yippy and hyper and more irritating than, in my opinion, a dog should be. She was leaning towards a Jack Russell terrier, and I was pushing towards a runty Border Collie or Shelty, having been given a pure-bread collie for my fourth birthday, who was One of the Greatest and Smartest Dogs of All-Time, and who remains the most excellent birthday gift I ever received.

The building had a little room in which you could interact with the little things. It was her dog, so she did the talking, and we started out with a couple of Jack Russells. The brown one was worth a look before any decisions were made, I kept reminding her.

All puppies are excitable and profoundly adorable. Heck, all baby animals are adorable, but puppies especially so. These Jack Russells were no exception, but they were pretty darn excitable, even one at a time. It was hard to tell if that was normal or not, given the nature of all puppies, and she was near making up her mind, but I kept reminding her this was a big decision, and we should look at as many as we can.

There were only two Sheltys left, and they were both so timid and scared it made our hearts ache. There wasn’t any question these two needed a good loving home, but they were so afraid it was easy to tell they might be some work not unlike adopting a disadvantaged human baby. It is very sad to wonder about the happiness and well being of a puppy recently taken away from its mommy in a crowded little cage who’s so clearly frightened to death it was impossible not to wonder if they had ALREADY been abused. Pet stores and shelters are tough on me. But this isn’t about me.

Finally, I convinced her to see the little brown dog. The sign said half Jack Russell and half Beagle, 7 weeks old, easily fitting in my hand, and he had a mostly-Beagle face with, for Beagles, a shorter nose, shorter but still comically big floppy ears (he grew into them nicely as an adult), three white sets of toes, and one full white boot on his front left paw. His body was more terrier, longer-legged and fast and muscular, with very short hair, almost bald on his white tummy, with a darker brown, almost black streak down his spine, and great big brown eyes. Forgive me, because all parents do this, but I was told after we bought him on no less than 20 separate occasions by 20 different people that he was “the cutest puppy (they had) ever seen.”

The first thing he did when he came in the room was pee on the floor.

But oh, the extroverted fearlessness! The obvious joy on his face! He struggled to climb on us, and let us pick him up and hold him without fuss, and he kissed us and wagged his little tail so hard his whole tiny butt shook. He wrestled and nibbled. He was too cute for words, I held him up to my face, looked at her and said, “Oh, honey,” and he was ours a quick transaction later. His lack of pure blood even made him inexpensive.

We brought him to her house where he played endlessly until exhaustion came over him. It had been a pretty big day for all of us. Getting a pet with/for a woman is serious business.

The cage was in the bedroom, of course, and I warned her that he was going to be upset about being in it.

She claimed to be prepared, but after about 15 minutes of listening to his frightened crying (remember, he was really beat before we put him in there), she said she couldn’t take it anymore, so she brought him into bed, where he spun around and around looking for just the right spot in between us, collapsing so he was touching us both, and he sighed and made some contented smacking noises with this mouth, and fell promptly to sleep. He never got out of any of those habits, though he later added grooming daddy’s face and head thoroughly with his tongue before his spin and plop towards dreamland.

He learned the potty thing quickly, and his joy at mastering the stairs to get to his mother’s door was unbridled and infectious. He would run up and down them, even when he didn’t have to, and proudly strut to get our approval at either the top or bottom. Mom named him B; I can’t remember why.

My relationship with her quickly became canine-centric. He was rarely without one of our undivided attention for that first year, and he was spoiled with love. To this day [Ed: long ago], if he is within touching distance, even just sitting next to me, he rests at least one paw somewhere on my body. This was occasionally irritating, but I got used to it, and it was one of a million examples of his sweet disposition. He was gentle with children, and other little puppies, and fearless and inquisitive with other dogs, regardless of size. My neighborhood has no less than 100 dogs in it, and B considered himself The Top Dog, despite being among the smallest.

Over time, she and I evolved from lovers to friends, and B had a lot to do with this successful transition. We went through some trying emotional times, but because of the dog’s overwhelming love for us both, we survived with much fondness and respect for each other.

They’re gone now, moved to TX so she could be nearer her family [Ed. Who are truly great folks], and make more money. I have a big hole in my heart where they used to be. There is nothing like the love of a dog. I will miss his rituals; upon coming to my house, he sprinted up the stairs, turned the corner at full speed, leapt onto the couch, and kissed me furiously for as long as I would let him, tail wagging his butt the whole time. He loved to sit on my lap and chew his bone; he loved it most of all when Mommy and Daddy were sitting closely enough for him to wedge himself between us with his rawhide, which he would chew with almost Zen concentration when he could touch us both. He loved getting “head kisses,” as we called them, and his ears would go to “sweet ear” position when I did this, back and down as far as the muscles would allow. You could always tell B’s mood from his ears and face. “Crinkle head,” furrows on his forehead and between his eyes, meant that he was tired, and ready to go home and go night-night. He never went to sleep without maximum body contact with me and/or mom.

I will miss the both of them intensely, but I will [Ed: not, as it turned out] be able to talk and write her, so of the two it is the loss of the dog that pains me most.

There is nothing like the love of a good dog.

Dogs are magic.