Monday, January 5, 2009

And Bingo is his Name-O

I know this is my third post in one day...but I HAVE been sick, and these three really don't belong together. And I really want to talk about my dog Bingo. See, he will be twelve this year, and 2009 could be very different for us in that it is realistic that we could lose him this year.

My friend Marybeth was one of the first people I met and liked when we moved to Illinois in January of 1997. We met at the library, in the children's section, and she invited me to join her informal bible study. I readily accepted, and met a few more amazing women in the process.

Marybeth is an avid dog person, and they had several of their own dogs, gave puppy classes and dog obedience training, and was raising a puppy to be a companion dog at the local nursing home. It was after we had moved out of our apartment and into our first house that she told me the nursing home dog was not going to work out. His personality was just too timid, and he had had a traumatic (for him) experience that set his conditioning back months. In the last couple of weeks they had taken in a stray collie who was going to be the perfect nursing-home dog. Would we like to have Bingo for ours? Well, "Heck yeah!" or something very similiar, was our response. He was already eight months old, completely housebroken, and well-socialized. Besides that he was cute as a button! I loved that I had already known him, and knew the handling he had received at Marybeth's home. It was a no-brainer- we had our first dog. The nursing home residents had already been calling him Bingo, so we kept the name.

Bingo was an "Oops!" dog from one of the local ranches, half Corgi and half Jack Russell Terrier. He was a 20 pound dog with the energy and attitude of one much larger, and would chase and bring back a ball until he was on the verge of a stroke. When we moved to the country he was in his element, trotting along beside my horse as I rode, scoping out every rat and snake hole we came across. He took special delight in taking off after deer like he was actually going to catch one. One summer day he very, very gently raided a rabbit's nest and brought us the babies, one-by-one, unscathed but too young to survive apart from their mom. The possums he was not so gentle with, and displayed his terrier savagery whenever one ventured too close to the house. He didn't think anything of taking on a full-grown raccoon, either, so we had to be extra careful to be sure he didn't have the opportunity.

Now we are in town again, and he is old. His face has greyed significantly, and he is much happier to just lay in the sun and sleep. Ball-chasing lasts two or three throws in the summertime. But mostly he doesn't act his age. He is not stiff or slow, he is still curious and engaged. He still loves to get out and take brisk walks around the block. But his weight has been a problem lately; we doubled his meal-sizes just to get him to maintain, and it finally seems to have stopped his weight decline. He developed a couple warty bumps that are probably nothing, but this past week a son's friend found a lump on his neck. He may have one or two others besides.

So this year we may face some hard choices with Bingo. My first decision, is whether or not we want to have any cancer testing done. If we do and it is positive, we will know better what to expect. There won't be any "heroic" surgeries, nor will there be expensive or debilitatiing chemotherapies, there will only be keeping him comfortable while he approaches the finish line.

Even without the testing, we know. Every time we pause to watch him peacefully sunbathe, or laugh at his antics with the squeaky toy his granny bought him for Christmas, we soak it up. I better understand Jesus' mother "treasuring these things, and pondering them in her heart." We tuck the little treasures away, now, to save for a day we know is not all that long coming.

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