Time Capsule: The Mystery of Dog Love

Hello, dear readers!

Whenever I come home from work, Bogan and Bentley–my long-haired standard Dachshund and my golden retriever–rush me. Bentley will snatch up her pink piggy stuffy (without the stuffing) and vigorously wag her tail. If she’s really glad I’m home, she might even jump on me, gleeful that I have returned from my place where I sit in my metal car. Because Boggie is older than Bentley, and less hyper these days, he’ll be the caboose in my greeting party. Still, his brown and black tail whips back and forth, as delicate as any banner fluttering in the wind.

My family and I love our dogs. My parents grew up having dachshunds, and continued this dog lifestyle after getting married.  After my dachshund Liesel was put to sleep, we went a year without a dog. This was a definite change for my sister and me. We’d grown up having Liesel around; she’s in our family photos and the old VCR recordings of our childhoods. It was certainly strange to not have a dog to greet us when we came home after school. While this dog-less life did free us from the worry of leaving her alone for too long, it did make our house feel a little emptier.

Then, one fall day, we drove to the airport to get Bogan. He arrived to a cream-colored kennel, all the way from New York. As he exited his kennel, his little brown and black body just kept on coming! He was so little, and extremely cute. On the car ride home, my parents exchanged a happy, misty-eyed look. They were remembering when they got Liesel, and how they brought her to my mom’s parents house in Owatonna, where they surprised my grandparents with their new puppy.

At home, I remember how we needed to turn his food bowl, because he was used to his siblings getting the rest of the puppy chow.

As he grew, his love for us grew with him.

Many years later, when Bogan was about six, we got Bentley, our first golden retriever. We were unsure of how Boggie would respond to having a new dog around, especially a puppy with a lot of energy. We were all in the kitchen. I was a senior in high school, Abbie was in elementary school. Bogan circled the pink kennel, his brown and black tail raised as he sniffed. Their first meeting was a flurry of wagging tails, their noses stretching out towards one another, a friendship that has lasted for seven years.

Bentley, like Bogan, became accustomed to her new pack, and our establishment as a pack. She too learned to anticipate people food–like blobs of vanilla ice cream and the juice leftover from the steak my dad grilled. She figured out what her fears were as well: the little vacuum cleaner my mom has for the kitchen floor, the dishwasher (part of it got stuck on her when she was a puppy, and Bogan’s yelping definitely did not help), and the shower (which we used to wash her in when she was little).

Whenever my mom is in the shower, or using the kitchen vacuum, she’ll come into my room to be by me. She probably thinks that she’ll be next for a bath, or that the rumbling, whirring monster that sucks up dust is coming to get her. She also tends to be much more of a dickens when I’m home alone with them, waking me up at odd hours of the night insisting that she has to go “outside”–only to spend a very long time sniffing for rabbits or chipmunks. I’m working on being more assertive, and lately, she’s been better when it’s just me in the house when my parents and sister are gone.

I love my dogs. I find all of Bogan’s vocalizations–barks, wines, and snorting–rather funny. I love how massive Bentley’s head is in comparison to Bogan’s. It’s fascinating that she actually watches TV, or gets excited when she sees a dog in a commercial or in a YouTube video. (Once, while we were watching the Colbert show, she actually jumped off the bed to get closer to the screen because she saw someone carving a piece of meat. We hadn’t pointed this out to her.)

Because I don’t have children of my own yet, Bogan and Bentley are my kids. While I don’t see them as human kids, they depend on me in a similar way to how children depend on parents. My dogs look to me as a leader, someone they know will protect and feed them. My dogs benefit from having a pack mentallity: when everyone is home, Bogan and Bentley are much more relaxed. Wolves, especially, thrive when they are in a pack. Their teamwork, especially when hunting, helps keep them alive. The hierarchy of an alpha and an omega keeps the wolf pack in order. To a lesser extent, my dogs know which one of us to bug if they need to go outside, or who to nudge if they want attention.

So, I’ve established that my dogs need me. But, do they love me?

They certainly missed us when we went on vacation this summer. While they might have been distracted by the other dogs in the facility, they ran towards us the day we picked them up. If my mom or dad isn’t home from work, Bentley will remain outside for hours, lying down facing the garage. She doesn’t want to come in, because she seems to be waiting for the rest of her people to return.

While dogs cannot speak in the same way we humans do, their eyes and body language tell us what they are thinking. Their tails wag in specific gestures, like how we humans use our whole bodies to convey what we’re thinking and feeling.

I’m definitely not ready for a life without dogs. Bogan is twelve, almost thirteen. Bentley is seven. I do want a dog of my own someday, but I’ll have to wait for now.

I first started writing this blog post when my parents, sister, and I had two dogs. Bogan, our long-haired standard Dachshund has been gone now for about eight months, and it’s still hard.

I miss his pacing click-clack of his nails on the floor of our kitchen. His pacing was so frequent and loud that if I went down in the basement, I’d still be able to hear it. I miss his whining, his vocalizations when he was hungry or wanted you to pet him. He used to sit up when he was younger; he would sit up on his hind legs, sometimes putting a tiny paw out to steady himself. I wish I had a picture of it, but my words will have to do.

He was the most beautiful brown and black doxie. He was a good boy. I miss him very much. Bentley is fine, but I’m sure she wonders where her friend went, and why he hasn’t come home.

If you are grieving the loss of a furry loved one, I suggest reading Mary Oliver’s Dog Songs. She wrote beautiful poems about dogs, and these are poems that any dog lover, or dog owner, will cherish.

Best friends. (Bogan, left. Bentley, right.)

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