A dog can often be described as a best friend to someone. Sometimes a dog serves as the best friend of multiple people. Think of family dogs, who are looked after by more than one person. The family dog also looks after more than a single person. Bogie has been part of our family for fourteen years. He’s a chocolate lab with personality to spare. Bogie has been nearing the end of his life, as he was diagnosed with cancer around Thanksgiving. Since that surgery to remove the cancerous tumor from his hip, Bogie has undergone rounds of chemotherapy. The cancer has been successfully slowed, but will soon take the poor guys life. During this past week, we took him down to the Oregon Coast, hoping he could enjoy the beach for possibly the last time. He wanted to be out on the sand as much as possible. Anytime there was the slightest movement toward the door, Bogie was up and ready to walk. But, for the first time he had trouble on the beach. His legs wobbled from time-to-time, making it challenging to keep his balance. All the while continuing to take care of his family, looking around to make sure we were all staying close during the walks.
During his first couple years, I lived with Bogie. He began as my brother’s dog and we all lived together for a year while attending college. Bogie was fun to have around the house. Helping my brother and I deal with the stresses of college. He was often doing something funny or mischievous to ease the pressures. Having him around not only helped the pressures of school, but also the angst of cerebral palsy. Dogs often seem to provide comfort in times of trouble and Bogie was no different. He always had me feeling like everything would be okay when coming up to me for some petting, wanting his ball thrown, or having me pull on one of his toys. Those interactions removed my mind from the daily struggles. Usually frustration with my disability, but he didn’t care how I walked or talked. Bogie would always be there with love and something to laugh about. There have been many good stories involving Bogie through the years. As we near the end of his life it seems fitting to tell the ones that stick out. There is little doubt Bogie has helped me deal with the challenges of cerebral palsy in ways that seem difficult to articulate. But, the first great story coming to mind occurred during the year of college living with Bogie and my brother.
We resided in a home in Bellingham and attended college. One of the requirements when looking for our place was fencing around the backyard. This would give Bogie the freedom to run around without intense supervision. It would also keep him safe from darting into the middle of traffic. The fenced in yard also worked great as my brother continued training Bogie. But, Bogie has always had fun mixing it up while no one is looking. His sneaky side keeps everyone on their toes, then he will look up after he’s been caught as if to say he didn’t do that, you only think he did, and meander away. It’s one of the most entertaining qualities about Bogie. Bellingham has often received more snow than gathers around our hometown of Woodinville. So, during that year, Bogie spent time playing in the snow.
It was during our year in Bellingham that Bogie grew in his love for the snow. We would throw snowballs for him to fetch. But, the snowball would disappear into the snow losing its shape. Bogie would stick his nose in the snow to find it, obviously, the snowball had disappeared. His look back to inquire where’d the damn thing go always warmed my heart. He was just a puppy when we lived in Bellingham. So, during one snowstorm we were hit with a pretty substantial amount. The schools shut down and the snow was piled high in our backyard. With little else to do because of the inclement weather, we decided to create Frosty the snowman. It probably took the entire afternoon, with the finished product being the best snowman I’ve ever been part of building. After finishing, we even found food to give frosty the proper facial features, arms, and buttons for his shirt. Bogie was out in the snow watching us carefully craft our snowman. Little did we know he wasn’t just watching, he was plotting.
The great thing about fencing around our backyard was Bogie could roam free. He would often go out in the backyard without one of us with him. We would simply open the back door to let him out, checking back periodically to let him back inside. Bogie enjoyed staying out longer with the snow. So, having knowledge of this, he wasn’t checked on with quite the frequency when snow covered the yard. This fact also bought him more time to complete his plan. On that night in the dead of winter, he had plenty of spare time. We just figured he was spending extra time playing in the snow, as sometimes we would hear noises if he truly wanted to come back inside. When we finally looked out into the yard, we noticed something different about the snowman. Some of the features we had given the snowman were missing, but only up to a specific height. That seemed slightly odd we thought. But, didn’t think too much about it and carried on with our night.
As the night went on and the snowman fiasco continued to be contemplated. Did all the food we used not stick in place? Soon it dawned on us that someone had eaten the snowman’s features. While we were letting Bogie roam around the backyard, he was eating away at our work. How he got high enough on the snowman to eat away parts of his face, the world will never know. Bogie was skillful in his act from a couple angles. The snowman was built just outside the door, but we didn’t hear anything during his execution of the plan. He knew it wasn’t something he should be doing, because he waited until no one was watching. And Bogie didn’t disturb the structure of our snowman at all. There was no way of understanding how he was able to reach the face of our creation. You would think Bogie would have to place his paws on the snowman to reach, if he did that, it was done perfectly in an effort to avoid being caught. One of the funniest things he has done without anyone looking. It happened over ten years ago and we still laugh about it today.
The positive memories with Bogie continue to grow. But, there have also been challenges surrounding my interaction with him. Often times life has tests associated with positivity. Cerebral palsy often provides tests with everything that surrounds life. For Bogie and me, barking has often caused distance between us two. CP causes my muscles to battle rigidity, so any loud noise becomes startling. The unexpected noise of barking can at times make my body feel rattled. It’s an uncomfortable reaction that has brought about apprehension around dogs. Those moments also bring about frustration with myself. There is no doubt Bogie does not intend to cause insecurity in me while barking. For any dog, it’s one of the only tools they have when sensing danger, whether that danger is real or fictitious. Barking is the only true alert system at their disposal. Still, the positivity of Bogie far out ways the apprehension of his bark.
There isn’t any way of knowing how much longer we have with Bogie. The moments he has spent touching lives are endless. Dogs are said to provide calm, along with helping people through challenges. Bogie has fit that description during his life, while remaining loyal and protective. Today he continues to act as the shadow for our mom, following her around her home. No matter what mom might be doing, Bogie remains at her side. He did the same in Bellingham years ago and on the beach this week. Even as his body fails him, Bogie’s mind remains focused on being there for others. He has helped me smile through my journey with cerebral palsy and challenged my capabilities with CP. Who knows how many funny stories he has left to share? If there aren’t any more in his ailing body, we’ll always giggle over the many he has already left. We’ve been truly blessed to have Bogie in our lives for fourteen years.