I never used to be a dog person, or an animal person altogether. I grew up on a farm, but I never really had any “pets”. I had a few dogs here and there, but nothing long term. I used to be the person that would think people were crazy that treated their pets like their own children. I used to think “It’s just a dog” or “It’s not like it was a kid or something”. That is, until I met my wife. She is a bonafide animal lover. She has inhuman amounts of patience for our four legged friends, load more than I ever had.
When I met my wife, she had just moved to town and gotten a job at the local animal shelter. She had a dog already, a boxer named “Paige”. We started dating in early 2010, and a few months later we moved in together. Her dog became my dog as well. I warmed to Paige immediately, she was quiet, sweet, and listened well. She never made any messes and only occasionally needed to be taken outside to do her “business”. A few months later, another boxer that my wife named “Bettye” (Bettye-Paige, get it?) came on to the scene.
Bettye was a hard luck case from the start. She was severely underweight, had heart worms, a urinary tract infection, and was riddled with shotgun pellets because some a–hole tried to shoot her. She was a hot mess. At the time, I was not too keen on Bettye moving into our new family. As a person who was not necessarily an animal lover, she needed lots of attention and patience that I just did not have. There was one night when Bettye, in the midst of her urinary tract infection, had urinated on the floor in the hallway of our tiny apartment. I stepped in the offending puddle and voiced my anger and dismay. My future wife took me to the side and said, “This is how life is going to be with me, if you can’t handle it then maybe we should go our separate ways.” I knew right then that I needed to put who I was behind me and get on board with this amazing woman and be the kind of person I like to think that I am. I stayed.
It took me a long time to warm up to Bettye, but she had no problems warming up to me. She was a licker, and I became her designated lickee, much to my consternation. I didn’t like to be licked by dogs, I still don’t, but I don’t mind it as much now. I didn’t like having to constantly take her outside, or bathe her, or feed her special food, or give her meds. I treated her like she was a burden but she didn’t care. For some reason I was her favorite person in the world. It used to make my wife jealous because she was the one who rescued her, bought her things, gave her expensive food, but for some reason Bettye took a shine to me. Her constant attention aggravated me at first, but the aggravating furry ball of unconditional love and joy wore down my wall and worked her way into my heart. It took a couple of years, but she did it. Little by little.
Over the next few years she became my silent companion. A silent partner if you will. As my wife brought me out of my self loathing depression by pushing me to pick up my art again, Bettye was always there at my feet as I sat at my drawing table, or at my computer. She followed me everywhere I went, she became my shadow. She was always there when I was happy or sad, always ready to cheer me up, even when I scolded her for being naughty (there were a few trash can incidents). She had nothing to give but unconditional love and all she asked for in return was a chest scratch, a french fry, or a pizza crust. I took her for granted because I thought that she would be around forever. Bettye passed away on Thursday April 23, 2015. She passed away suddenly of an undiagnosed heart condition. It was unexpected and a total shock. She was taken from us without warning and now my wife and I are faced with an unfillable void in our lives. Even though Paige is still alive, there is a silence in our house that is deafening. No more snoring next to me on the floor, no more “tick-tack” of her nails on the kitchen tile, no one snorting loudly to get my attention to take her outside, no one staring at me until I relent and give her a chest scratch in just the right spot. My friend is gone.
Like I said, I was never a dog person. You might think I’m crazy for writing this because after all “It was just a dog”. You just don’t get it. There are a lot of people who just don’t get it. I, for one, am glad I was given the opportunity to “get it”. Although we only had 5 years together, it felt like a lifetime. To Bettye it WAS a lifetime. I just hope that wherever she is, she knows that we miss her terribly and that we love her so very much. I will think about her every day for the rest of my life. I’m a better person now because of her, I only wish I’d gotten the chance to say goodbye. I guess the only way is to say it here, Goodbye Bettye. We love you. Rest in Peace sweet girl.