They say dogs do not go to heaven when they pass away. They say they have no soul. But, I hope there is a dog heaven. We have a dog that truly deserves to go there.
Bunker, our beautiful, sweet Yellow Lab turned 14 (98 in dog years) on January 9th, 2010. His once baby soft and nearly white hair has turned wiry. He moves slowly now from the arthritis that has attacked his hips. And he often needs help making it up or down the three steps from the porch to the back yard. But, clearly he has ruled our house since the day he arrived at 10 weeks old.
It is difficult to imagine life in our home without Bunker. When I rise at 5AM he is standing near me as I pour my first cup of coffee. He sleeps next to my bed. He is the first to eagerly greet us when we walk in the door. Always letting out a bark to remind us he had stood guard over the place while we were away. If we were gone for a vacation and had left a friend to watch him, he would show his chagrin with us by poo-pooingly slipping into the bedroom , even though we were wanting to hug and catch up. But, most of the time he wags his huge tail and his ears go back in happiness for our return.
He was the lowest maintenance dog I ever owned, never destructive or unfriendly. He was very private about his potty habits. He would patiently wait to be walked around the natural area down the street we called “the circle”. Then after sniffing out several spots, he would back into the bushes and look at you with eyes that said, “please look away” and then do his duty. He is just easy .
True to his breed, he enjoyed activity of all kinds especially balls and water. He loved to play with Tom and the children in the pool. Tom would throw balls to the kids as they jumped into the pool. Bunker would sit eagerly on the swim-out for his turn. He was always gentle and tolerant of the kids. They could trample on him, sit on him even dress him up and he would look up with his sad eyes as if to say , “I really don’t like to be dressed up.” But, he allowed it, happy to be included.
When my friends would arrive for bible study Bunker was at the door to greet them. He always seems to need to scrutinize who is gaining entrance in case he needs to protect. He has never become genuinely aggressive. His presence is usually all that is required. Like everyone else, the bible study ladies like him. Well most of them. He would lay under the dining room table, licking their sandaled feet until they would squirm and laugh. Then I would command him to go to the bedroom. All I have to do is tell him once and slowly he retreats to his quiet spot.
When Bunker was almost 12 Tom surprised me with a puppy. This was no strange puppy. In fact, he had been hand picked by Bunker’s breeder Reggie Johnson, to become a member of the Goold family. Tom’s sister “Aunt Cathy” and her three children who live in Ohio, thought it was time for a dog. The children had begged for a pup and always enjoyed Bunker when they visited. It seemed good sense to get a “Bunker” puppy. However, “Duffy”, named after Uncle Patrick Duffy, turned out to not be a good fit. Well, that might not be fair to “Duffy”. The blush was off the rose shortly after he arrived from the airport. The kids had places to go, friends to see. And Aunt Cathy was left with the puppy watch and all of the duties that came with that. This was unfair. After all, the puppy was for them? So, in a few days, Duffy was cleared for travel once again, and headed back south flying Delta where Uncle Tommy had arranged a surprise birthday gift for Aunt Judi.
They say getting a puppy adds years on to an older dogs life. We were willing to do anything to prolong the life of our Bunker. So, home came the already named little ball of blonde colored fluff with a big black nose and two bright black eyes and paws two sizes too big. But, he had some things to learn and they didn’t come from his master. Duffy was reminiscent of Bunker at that age. He was very playful and a bit wild. He may have thought Bunker was his Mother. He wrestled with him and tore at his ears. But, Bunker was the master of THIS domain and Duffy began to understand Bunker ruled. Several trips to the vet and a few stitches made it perfectly clear. Bunker was indeed getting more exercise than he had been. And his naps were fewer, or lets say not as restful. But he definitely appeared to have a little more spring in his step.
Since that day Duffy has not spent a day out of sight of Bunker. They sleep together, they play together, they walk together. When the door is opened for Duffy to go out, he turns and waits for his old buddy to join him. He watches like an obedient student never straying far from his mentor. The bond that has developed is strong and delightful to observe. It will be difficult and very confusing for him when Bunker is gone. He will have pretty big paw prints to fill. He will take over as master. And we know he will do just that.
The reality is Bunker’s days with us are fleeting. Our family is trying to prepare for the inevitable. Fact is, I am writing this now, because I don’t know if I will be able to do it when the day finally comes. But, when he leaves us we know he lived a great doggy life. He had a big yard to run with birds and squirrels. He was surrounded by children and those who played with him and loved him. He had a little pup who worshipped him as his hero. He truly is and will always be our very best friend.
Thank you buddy. You were a true and loyal companion. Hope to see you in heaven. We love you Bunker!
P.S. On March 31st, 2010 Bunker went to sleep in my arms. In keeping with his life, he died with great dignity.