I talk a lot about Bentley-girl, but realized that many of you might not know who I am talking about. Bentley-girl was my first baby. My chocolate lab mix. Jerimiah and I got her when we were barely 21, and moving from Kansas City to Southern Missouri, which turned out to be a blessing and a curse, but I was so happy that Bentley was along for the ride. We came across Bentley when I had mentioned wanting a dog to go on this next adventure in life with and my sister’s neighbor’s dog had just accidentally impregnated a stray and the stray stuck around and had the puppies. The neighbor’s dog was a large, blocky-headed English lab, and the stray was, well, a stray. She was black, she had long hair, and she was skittish. That’s all I remember when I saw her the first time, while she was protectively hovering over her new babies. They were tiny and adorable, and two of them were chocolate (out of ten or so) and my sister and I claimed the two chocolates. The neighbor was giving them away since they were mixed and he didn’t want to deal with all those puppies. About six weeks later we went back to pick them up and my sister’s dog (we had put little collars on them to tell them apart) was waiting happily for her new home, meanwhile Bentley flipped out, ran away, and wedged herself inside the wall and a tall shelf in the barn. Jerimiah had to spelunking back there to get her and she hated all of it. She was traumatized for sure, but she was my traumatized girl and we hope we made up for it over the next fourteen years.
It’s always a little hard for me to talk about Bentley because she was legit my ride-or-die. She was with us, day in and day out, since that moment in the barn and she was absolutely our first baby. We took great pride in teaching her so much. We taught her all the basics of course, how to sit, beg, speak, lie down. But we taught her cool shit too, like how to climb in and out of the swimming pool by using the ladder. She could also climb back into a boat. This was out of necessity because she was the quintessential lab, even though she wasn’t a full-blooded lab, she loved DUCKS! And she would bail on the boat at first site of one, swim until she couldn’t anymore, then we’d troll over and she’d climb the ladder back into the boat. People were amazed when they saw her. We had friends and family gets labs after meeting her, but of course none were as awesome as her.
It was always fun to take her to the doggy swim days at the public pool. Besides the fact that she was a bomb-ass swimmer, who would often try to save people when they jumped off the diving board because she thought they were drowning, ha! But also because you’d just have to yell, “Ladder, Bentley” and she’d swim over to the ladder and walk out of the pool. People were legit amazed and would ask Jerimiah right there to teach their stupid golden retrievers that and he’d laugh and be like, “You’re dog isn’t smart enough.” Haha, just kidding. He’d tell them it takes a while to learn.
Bentley was a true lake girl because we lived at the lake with her for the first five years of her life. She was hit by a car twice there. She fought off wild animal there. She was even rescued a couple of times when she chased ducks a little too far out into the cove. But she had, what we thought, were some of her best years there, then we moved to the city and Jackson was born. That’s when Bentley really became who she was supposed to.
Jackson was Bentley’s kid. Always. From the moment we brought him home. She believed that Jackson belonged to her. Early on she would grab the blanket he was laying on, and pull him across the hardwood floors next to her bed while she took a nap. She slept in his nursery, then for a few toddler years they disagreed on some stuff, mainly him pulling her tail and trying to ride her, then sometime around his third birthday she was back. Back in his room, sleeping next to him on his bed, until the last time she could manage to get herself safely up there and back down again when Jackson was about nine-years-old.
That’s about the time we moved again. Not across the country this time, but from another rural area to the city. We moved into Charlotte and Bentley was none to happy. At first. The house was smaller than she was used to. The yard had a privacy fence. The neighbor dog growled. But I started taking her on more and more walks, trying both to elongate her life, and to spend more time with my best friend, who I knew was slowly slipping away from me.
By this time we had been told that Bentley was slipping into what amounted to Alzheimers Disease in the doggy world. She was starting to not recognize us sometimes. She would forget to eat one day, which was highly unusual for this 110-pound dog, and some days the forgetfulness, mixed with her arthritis and slow-growing tumor, the world was too much and she would lay at my feet, in our small Charlotte house, while I typed away on my thesis, and she would watch the birds out the glass door.
Then one day, the week I was defending my thesis, I called for her and she came running in from the hallway and stopped dead in her tracks. Tucked her tail between her legs, backed up slowly into a corner and cowered. I slowly approached her, as the vet had recommended at times like this, and sat not he floor next to her. She looked up at me like she had no idea who I was, and this time, for the first time ever, she was terrified, like I was going to hurt her. I cried, again, with my best friend. I held her. Thought back to the other times I had cried with her. So many times. She eventually came out of it, laid her large body next to mine on the floor, and we cuddled, but I knew that day it was time.
Three days later, on the suggestion of our vet, we spent our last day in this world with Bentley-girl. We took her to Freedom Park and let her chase ducks for a little while. We took her to lunch. Out for ice cream. Then I took her on our last walk around the neighborhood. She was a month shy of her 14th birthday. “A good, long life,” the vet had assured us. A good, long life.
It’s been two years now since we lost Bentley. Rather, since we let her go. She still comes to me in dreams. I still sometimes wake up thinking that I live on Table Rock Lake, and that Bentley will come running through the door with a snake hanging from her mouth as a gift to me, like she did many times before. I still see her curled up on the floor, a toddler Jackson sitting on her back. She was at her happiest when we were all together, when she knew we were all safe and happy.
I know for a fact she would not be happy with Sir Duke or Lady Winnie today. She’d despise them both, but for different reasons. She never liked male dogs (I get that), and she hated too much play and sassiness. She was a no-nonsense kinda gal, who appreciated bacon and walks, and the occasional swim in her older years. But I know that if it weren’t for Bentley and the awesomeness that she was, we wouldn’t have Duke or Winnie, or sometimes stop and smell the air on warm spring days when the flowers are blooming and the trees swaying.
Sending love to you wherever you are today, Bentley. We certainly miss you.
I just remembered that one of my first blog posts was about Bentley as well. You can read it here.