A Goodbye to My Good Boy
Sometimes we make spur of the moment decisions that follow us for the rest of our lives. That can sound daunting… or regretful. Like a spontaneous decision to get what ends up being a shitty tattoo*. But in the case of picking my dog Bisco as a pet, spur of the moment ended up being one of the biggest blessings in my life.
I was in college, and for some reason, I wanted a dog. Of course, I couldn’t afford a dog on my internship salary of $0 a year, so everytime I was back in town at my mom’s house, I would ask her for one.
Surprisingly, one day while I was on winter break, she agreed. We went to the pet store at a mall (I now know how bad this was, and thankfully this pet store in question is no longer around) and I started hanging out with some puppies to see if I connected with any of them.
I don’t remember the first dog I met, but when the second dog waddled into the meeting room, it was an instant connection. He walked right up to me, got in my face, and sniffed. No messy, overzealous licks. Just a classy handful of sniffs. “And he doesn’t even shed!” promised the store employee**. He was perfect.
When it was time for spring semester to start, I made the five-hour drive back to Arizona with my new dog Ziggy (named after Ziggy Marley) in his dog carrier. Had I informed my college roommate ahead of time that I was bringing an untrained puppy into our small two-bedroom apartment? Of course not. Spur of the moment, baby!
Thankfully she welcomed my new companion with open arms; everything but his name, that is. “Ziggy?” she questioned; judgement written all over her face. It was only a few minutes later that he was renamed to Bisco, inspired by how the bottom of his paws looked like little mounds of chocolate chip cookies, much like that sold by the billion-dollar corporation, Nabisco. I didn’t need any convincing. Bisco just felt right.
And that was it. He seamlessly blended into my life from that point forward. Whether it was living in that college apartment, going on walks between homework assignments and nights out at the bar. Or when I moved back in with my mom after graduating college and getting laid off from my first job. When I finally could afford to move into my own apartment and was on the second floor of a building with no elevator, we made it work. From job changes, break ups, make ups, there has been a constant comfort in my life since college: Bisco. Unconditionally loving me through the best and the worst times. He was perfect.
When I picked Bisco at that pet store all those years ago, I had no idea that I was making a decision that would accompany me on the next 16 years of my life. The extent of my thinking at the time was “I want a pet!” How naïve; my lack of understanding that I had just selected a family member that would see me through the end of my teenage years and into adulthood. Bisco was there with stoic acceptance when two new children were brought into his domain. Sat by me in the bathroom while I cried over the loss of a child that could not make that same trip. He photo bombed the footage of my daughter’s first steps. And sat at the top of the stairs on the other side of the baby gate every night, in what I’m convinced was the most uncomfortable position possible, just to be close to me while I slept. While I contemplated some of the most difficult decisions I’ve had to make in my life, he’s been there, snuggled at my feet or snoring quietly in the corner. There’s something about his constant presence that helped steady me. My life could feel like it was falling apart, but when I turned the key and opened the door, I could count on Bisco being there; subtly pleased that I was back home. He was perfect.
He was such an easy dog. What he enjoyed most was being home in his familiar surroundings, letting life bustle around him while he relaxed, until he decided to join in on the fun for a few beats – running in quick sprints with a case of the zoomies or playing his version of fetch in which, the item is retrieved but never returned. A sweet, sensitive dog, who, ever since my grandmother (suffering with Alzheimer’s) fed him an obscene amount of poundcake in the late 2000s, has endlessly begged for food from anyone eating anywhere near him.
And oddly enough, in the midst of the pandemic, it would be that same dementia that would surface in Bisco. It started with pacing. Pacing for hours in the middle of the night; urinating in huge puddles while we slept. What followed was a quick showing of symptoms that his vet said was all in his brain. His body, at 15 years old, was worn, but healthy. It was his mind that was going. Reluctantly, I moved him to the backyard, his inability to control his bodily functions had made it impossible to keep him in the house. During the day, he paced. At night, he collapsed, exhausted from the constant walking. I shut down. Unable to come to terms with what was happening before my eyes. I knew he was dying. A huge part of him – his spirit – was already gone.
And how cruel is that. My dog that has been beside me since I was struggling in college classes, had moved with me from state to state, from apartment to apartment, from the beginning of a marriage to the end of one – a constant like that should not be allowed to leave before I’m ready. Should not have to suffer from confusion, disorientation.
I struggled to come to terms with reality. God willing, I still have a lot of life left to live, and what would that be like without Bisco there to greet me when I turn the key? How would I be able to make those important life decisions without him napping in the corner? Who would come check on me while I cried on the bathroom floor?
Eventually, his body caught up with his brain and I knew it was time to let him go. I made an appointment to put him to sleep, and he passed away in the car while we were on our way.
After I arrived at the vet, and he confirmed that he was gone, I sat in the waiting room for an awkward amount of time. The receptionist politely placed a box of tissues next to the sign in sheet. I didn’t want to leave him there. He was my buddy, and I hated the thought of walking out of those doors with no reason to come back.
My kids were upset, but they also bounced back quickly. Only days had passed before I was fielding questions about new pets – cats, dogs, lizards – that we could invite into our home. I was honest with them. “Mommy is too sad for another pet. I loved Bisco a lot, and I’m not ready.” They solemnly accepted that I was grieving and dropped the topic. Just kidding, they’re kids – they still ask me this all the time. I just wash, rinse, repeat the statement above until they get bored and move on to something else.
Truthfully, I don’t see how I can ever have another pet. It’s like signing a contract agreeing that that you’ll have your heart broken in the next 10-12 years. 16 if you’re as lucky as me. But of course, there was insurmountable good within those 16 years. Life changing type stuff. I’m talking Marley and Me levels. So, I’m glad it happened – without a doubt. I just don’t think I can do it again.
With that, this is dedicated to Bisco. I just know he’s in dog heaven sniffing faces to his heart’s content. But no licking; he’s classy. He was perfect.
* I have a shitty tattoo on my wrist to prove it.
** If his hair grew long than half an inch, Bisco shed everywhere.