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First Person: “You Love Me, Right?”
He was a party animal and a perfect gentleman, and he liked to hit the road.
I saw him at the mall. He was a mark-down, and I never could pass up a good sale.
I know, you aren’t supposed to get a puppy at the mall—but he was irrationally adorable. Our schnauzer, Rags, had died six weeks before, and I couldn’t imagine life without a dog.
Bixby was a Wheaten terrier. We bonded immediately, but then he bonded with everyone—including all the other dogs, who seemed to be asking him to keep in touch when he left.
Rags had had an attitude—“Yeah, you and who else, buddy?”—but Bixby just wanted to be popular: “You love me, right?”
Bixby was a puppy version of Paddington Bear. He had thick, curly fur if left to its own devices, but when blown out after a cut, it was as straight as a California babe’s. He was the only natural blond in our house. And he didn’t shed. Can we talk perfect?
My husband and I like to entertain, and Bixby was a party animal. He’d greet each guest at the top of the landing, his backside shimmying with the enthusiasm reserved for a treasured friend.
He never jumped on anyone. The perfect gentleman, he’d walk from person to person all evening, making sure every guest was okay, expecting no more reward than a pat on the head and an occasional pig-in-a-blanket.
We have letters of thanks to Bixby for his graciousness from a congressman and a governor, which we framed and hung above his water bowl.
There was a downside: Bixby exhibited none of the undivided loyalty other dogs lavish on their owners. I could envision Bix willingly handing over our sterling flatware to a burglar.
He was forever charging out the door to see the world. There was no doubt in my mind he would hop on a trawler to India or go into a car with a stranger: “Later—it’s been swell knowing you.”
But he always came back. As one man said when he returned Bixby to us, “He looked like he was whistling as he strolled up the road. I opened the car door, and he jumped in.”
Bixby eventually gave up his dream to see the world but never his appreciation of what he saw: “Wow, they put a tree here just for me.”
In the last few years, his spring spiraled down to a slow pace. There’s just so much you can expect from a guy who’s 98 in human years.
A lot went wrong with his health, but we kept him alive for the last two years with every cure we could find. His vet told me that when it was time, I would know.
I watched Bixby this morning—deaf, almost blind, barely able to get up—and I knew that time had come. As I dissolved into tears and kissed his face all over, he covered mine with—I swear—puppy-breath licks.
I cried more this morning than I did at my mother’s funeral—and I adored my mother.
Our vet says Bixby is going to heaven, and when I next see him he’ll be young, lively, and excited to see me. I like that notion; it eases the emptiness I feel. I can envision him there now, ecstatic to be young again, meeting his old buddies, asking, “You love me, right?”
As for me, he knew there was never any question.
TV comedy writer and playwright Trish Vradenburg (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a cofounder of Alzheimer’s Action PAC.