It is difficult to think about how to begin Ben’s story. He was one of a kind, a Corgi and Jack Russel mix who so was loving, well-behaved, and quiet that we used to say Ben is like a Buddha. I fondly called him my Big Boy, Papadoll, and my Boyar. He was such a special boy that we often thought it would be perfect if we could clone him.
Ben came into my life in the year 2001. A few months after my son left for college. I was not anticipating the emptiness I would feel when my son left home; I read a book that most mothers do experience a sense of loss. The author suggested getting a pet, an idea that stuck with me, so I decided to share it with my husband. He agreed to adopt a pet, so we headed off to the shelter to find our new family member.
As I walked around, I was searching for a short-haired little boy, and there was little Ben! It was difficult to grasp how anyone could have given him up or overlooked him at the shelter. Thankfully, we found him the day before the shelter was going to euthanize him. It was our lucky day! The name was easy to choose, as I had a special pet when I was younger named Benji, so I shortened the name to Ben to represent a new beginning and conversely remind me of my first four-legged family member, Benji. It was the perfect fit because Ben had similar colors to Benji’s.
As we walked away with our little boy, he seemed quite relaxed and after his little peeing in the nearby bushes, he took to the car instantly as I opened the door he just jumped in as if he knew about cars. He found a spot on my lap so he could watch outside and after taking occasional look back at us, he would go right back to enjoying the scenery on our long drive back to the country.
As time went by, Ben adjusted to his new home and family and with regular training, we could train him to go potty outside. Not too long after, we realized that Ben enjoyed chasing the squirrels around in the yard. We had a lot of trees and big yard for Ben out in the country and it made Ben’s daily life a lot happier and contented. And thankfully, he was able to use up some of his energy while being entertained.
It was fun to watch Ben run after the squirrels when he was just a pup. As he grew older, his Da (my husband was Da) decided to take him for his early morning walks around the neighborhood. It allowed my husband to stretch his legs while Ben got his morning walk. Eventually, the walks became every day routine; Ben took a morning walk, an afternoon walk, and an after dinner walk in the neighborhood. Ben got used to these walks and gave up making use of his big yard for his daily bowel movements. As time went by I noticed that Ben was less interested in playing around the yard, so the thought occurred to me that he might like a little brother, who might relieve some of Ben’s boredom.
I asked around and at the same time a local lady at the vet were looking for a good home for her little red miniature pinscher, so we had a meeting of sorts, to see how Ben would react towards him, and it was so easy to see that this handsome little red miniature pinscher, JuneBoy was no big deal to Ben. We immediately took it to be the sign we needed and from there on it was two little boys.
Ben, well-behaved, but had a lot of energy, so he took JuneBoy under his tutelage. JuneBoy was only about a year old and lived most of his life inside a kennel, so he didn’t know anything about grass or how to explore outside. Ben literally took him under his care and guidance as I let them both out in the yard and he would slowly in their own little dog ways show JuneBoy how to sniff around, how to do #1 and #2, and then how to hunt and chase the squirrels.
Ben seemed to enjoy his little brother’s company, and as JuneBoy grew he quickly came into his own and sometimes enjoyed wandering without his big brother Ben. Ben had NO problem with that what so ever, because he enjoyed watching his little brother roam around the yard and get into things. But, Ben would quickly appear thinking it must be something interesting that his brother found; for the most part Ben found JuneBoy to be thoroughly entertaining and good company.
As JuneBoy roamed around the yard, Ben would have to check out what he was doing, so they walked along side each other doing what dogs do when around mother nature, they could always be found right next to each other. As they sat next to each other, it was a beautiful sight to behold, because it was such a special bond. It almost seemed like that is exactly what Ben needed, a little brother to hang out with, play with, and take care of.
Many times, I’d notice Ben giving his little bro a kiss on the face. It was if Ben was checking him out and making sure all was well with his little bro. JuneBoy would often to the same with Ben. They grew to love each other’s company and they could always be found together. His Da called them two peas in a pod, because they were never separated. They did everything as a team and even slept together.
We’d moved back to the city and away from the country that they both grew to enjoy. They probably missed the big yard with all the trees, squirrels, and birds, but the new home was particularly interesting because the back yard was adjacent to a creek and a trail that kept both boys pretty busy and entertained.
By then, JuneBoy was still full of energy, but Ben slowed down a bit. On his high-energy days, Ben would sometimes chase squirrels, so I decided to take Ben for a little stroll at the back of the house adjacent to the creek, where there is a nice green almost level area for walking around the little bushes and grass. There was one walk that I remember when Ben saw a squirrel and immediately took off chasing it, but unfortunately that would be the last good chase for him, as was having problems with his back leg. I took him to the vet for an x-ray, which showed a cruciate ligament tear on his left knee.
That was the beginning of a steady decline of my big boy. His days of wanting long walks and play time, were only occasional. Ben eventually adapted to his slower and less energetic self, but with the passing of time, we noticed a little mass on his right side was beginning to grow and get larger. We had it removed successfully. Ben never complained through his rehabilitation period and his little bro stood quietly by his side. No matter what, JuneBoy could be seen checking on him and making sure all was well with his big bro.
A biopsy of the mass was done and Ben was diagnosed with intermediate grade nerve sheath sarcoma. Radiation was suggested for Ben and we decided on a less intensive option because of his age. My sweet big boy never complained during the two weeks he underwent radiation. It was a successful outcome and even though they said that there were potential for recurrence, it never did.
Ben was completely well again, and back to his normal self of being mister independent. Every once in a while, he could be found chasing the squirrels in the backyard, but never to exertion, just enough to give it a go and then quickly give up the chase. As Ben neared age 16, he became less energetic and would stay close to home in the back yard and watch JuneBoy carry on with the neighbors, squirrels, birds, and people walking on the trail. He remained interested and entertained.
On April 24, 2016, exactly 3 years, 4 months, and 2 days after we moved into our house, my little JuneBoy passed from IBD, a devastating autoimmune disease. Ben’s little brother who was with him for 9 years was no longer there to keep him company and found himself alone again.
As our days unfolded we would both struggle to get on, even though I was processing this in my own way, I took note of how Ben was holding up. Initially it appeared that he was okay, however it soon became evident that Ben was depressed. He walked around the house and stopped at places in the house where he knew he would find his little brother.
I started taking Ben to the park in the morning and evening, as it seemed to bring him some relief. He seemed happy to meet other dogs and it became especially calming and the thing to do for him. Prior to JuneBoy’s passing, Ben never paid much attention to other dogs, but now it seemed to cheer him up and kept him involved.
He did look forward to his walks in the park, but even walks to the park were not enough and Ben got even more depressed. I swore I was not going to get another pet because of the heartbreaking loss of JuneBoy, but it was apparent that Ben needed the companionship. In July, Ben’s Da and I went to the same shelter where we found Ben so many years ago. On Saturday July 9, as I was inside the shelter searching for a new family member, Ben and his Da were outside waiting. As they were waiting, my husband called me to tell me they found the perfect little boy, so I came outside to meet him.
The dog had already made eye contact with my husband, and licked his hand outside the fence, so off I went to the inside of the fence and he pointed out the next little brother for Ben. As I picked up the little terrier mix, I noticed he had a sweet and conversely sad look, but still seemed quiet and well-behaved. He was easy to hold, not like a small pup that you should be careful with, but fitted well in my arms. We decided he was the one.
We brought Ben back home after having to leave and go back for the adoption of Ben’s new little brother, and as we got back home with him I decided that we should let him out in the back yard first, and not take him inside the house so Ben could come out and meet him. What a BRIGHT day in Ben’s life! His disposition was completely changed, his face lit up, and there was an immediate difference in Ben’s behavior. Our newest family member Boris, just stayed still as Ben came close to him and checked him out. As they greeted each other I could see that Ben was okay with him being around. Boris started to wonder around the yard and Ben started to follow him. And that was the start of a new relationship with Ben and his new little brother. It took just an instant to see that my big boy was happy and moving about as well as he could at his age, and that was pretty good to me.
And so it was, Ben had his constant companion, and I, once again started taking them both to the park. They became close as they enjoyed their walks together and Ben was happy to have a new brother. It was great to see the two of them wonder off in the grassy areas to sniff and do the things that they do. It was a wise decision to bring Boris into our family. Ben followed Boris around the house, and the yard, and once again I’d started teaching Boris to put his big bro to bed at bed time. Within a short period of time, Boris was jumping on the bed to say goodnight to Ben, just like his first little brother JuneBoy did.
Sadly, my life has not been the same since Ben’s passing. It took a long time for me to write this memorial for Ben, because I am still trying to come to terms and understand exactly what happened. Of course, my hope was that in the end my dear beloved big boy would pass peacefully, simply going to sleep one night and not waking up. Heartbreakingly, Ben’s life was suddenly cut short, purely because he was aging. It has been almost impossible for me to make sense of what led to Ben being euthanized on September 23 of 2016.
I made plans to take the train with my brother to visit my only child and son in Austin. Even though I usually drive there, this weekend was going to be special, because I had always wanted to take the train. It was an exciting opportunity for me! Da offered to take my brother and I to the train station on Friday the 23rd and we had a great trip.
On Saturday morning, I called to check on everyone around 11.00 am. Ben’s Da replied that everyone was doing well but that he had something he wanted to tell me, he said “Ben went to sleep early yesterday evening but didn’t wake up.” I wasn’t thinking straight so even though I heard what he said, it still wasn’t registering since it was just yesterday, that I left knowing all was the same with Ben. Nothing could’ve possibly happened to make him just to go sleep and never wake up again, he was just my aging big boy who was doing well for his age.
Ben would take short walks around the neighborhood to do his outside duties, go out to the back yard a couple times a day, walk around and get some fresh air, and watch his new little brother Boris chase the squirrels. He was sleeping more and was less motivated to do much. He wasn’t interested in anything except Boris.
He would pace around the house in the evenings as if he was a bit restless. At nearly 16 years old, he was a bit slower, had a bit of Dementia, and perhaps Parkinson’s because he did shake a little when he slept, but other that he was still comfortable and content. He still knew when it was breakfast time and dinner time, when we were headed to the park, and what was happening in our home environment, so I was having a difficult time accepting that my big boy just went to sleep the same night I left for two days away from him. I couldn’t believe anything drastically changed in a matter of a few hours and devastated and shocked to say the least.
It took me a few minutes to realize that I was yelling and crying on the phone. And I was oblivious to time and place, but then looked up to see folks walking by and looking at me strangely. It dawned on me that I was hysterical on the phone (but with good reason). I kept asking for an explanation and made many attempts to find out from Da what happened step-by-step. What was strange was that he wouldn’t answer my questions. I decided to call the Animal Emergency Hospital where I knew my husband would take him, to find out what happened to Ben. I was hoping to get some answers that were more logical, but I was told that because my name was not on the account, they were not able to give me any information. I called Da back to ask him if he could possibly put my name on the account, and he said okay, but then did not follow through. After several requests, he said that he was NOT going to do add my name to the account right now.
My intuition told me that something wasn’t right, so I called the hospital back and asked to speak with someone in authority and it was then that I got a break. A doctor who was on at that time, gave me very little, but I was grateful for that very bit of important information. I told the doctor that I wanted to be at Ben’s cremation and she gave me the contact information, which made a big difference for me. I called and asked about Ben’s cremation and found out that the private cremation would be on Monday at 9 am. Somehow in my grief, I had the wherewithal to make arrangements to be with my Ben even though Da didn’t put my name on the account at the Animal Emergency Hospital. I was able to spend precious time with him, care for his fur coat, and wrap around his special blue blanket around him. I stayed and talked with my big boy at the cremation facility until everything was done and I was able to bring my big boy’s ashes home with me.
I’ve spent days trying to wrap my mind around what really happened and what could cause Ben’s Da to think about such an act. I say such an act because it was not Ben’s time. Ben was still able to do things really well for his age, still enjoyed going to the parks for walks and meeting other dogs. He just needed a little push to do things, but that’s only because he was 15. Ben was not in any kind of pain or suffering from any incurable disease. Heck, when he was in the mood, he even ran a bit. He was not on any medication either.
Days still go by and I wonder why, why, why? Still Ben’s Da has not discussed the events that led up to his euthanization. I’ve loved being Ben’s mom for the past 15 years and cannot help but ask who does something like this! It was cruel, and devastating, and felt like he was playing God and taking away my baby like if he’s the only one that knows what’s best or the authority on life and death! Now, I will always wonder what if I hadn’t gone to Austin.
I keep asking myself all these questions and more because I am not able to get any answers from him. I reflect again and again and remember one thing that stood out, which is of all our almost 16 years having Ben, I’ve asked if he would be okay if I leave Ben and JuneBoy with him once a year when I left for out of town, or just whenever I had to leave for a period which could be a day or any little time that would take me away from the boys for a short period. I usually arranged my life around my two boys and for all those years I’ve always taken the boys to boarding until I got back, because he said that he couldn’t take care of both of them at the same time.
For some reason, this time I neglected to ask and now as I go back over this in my head, he was taking care of Ben’s walks and nightly bed time over the last couple of months without any complaining about anything. He was being really nice about everything, so it didn’t occur to me, especially since he was okay with me going to Austin; and since he didn’t ask “well who’s going to take care of Ben” like many times before, I automatically took it as it was okay no problem. Now, I wish it had occurred to me to actually ask the question, but then again, maybe he’d say not a problem, no need to cancel your trip go ahead” assuming that this is something he was contemplating, but wasn’t going to discuss with me!!!
I remembered a remark he made as we were going out the front door. I said bye to Boris asking him (as I used to always say to JuneBoy) to take care of his big brother until I got back, just as a way to let him know that I wouldn’t be back soon. To my surprise his Da also remarked “take care of Ben” which seemed odd to me. Now, I ponder on the days and time leading up to and this weekend, because he’d never said that before in all the years that I’ve said that to my little JuneBoy and now Boris.
Ben has always been such a great big brother to his little bro, JuneBoy and he was the same with his new little brother Boris, except that of course he was not able to play and run around like he used to, but he would be there always around. You knew you could find Ben laying around in the house or walking around, he always had this calming disposition and he transferred that to his little brother JuneBoy over the years.
Ben let JuneBoy get away with just about anything, it was like his little brother could do no wrong, except once in a while if JuneBoy were to get close to his treat that Ben simply left close by, Ben would just give him that loud growl and JuneBoy would know to stay away. They had a sweet understanding and togetherness about them, it was just so precious and one of kind, beautiful sight to behold. Even though Ben was older, JuneBoy never disrespected him, he always showed his big bro the respect that he deserved, because he was such a great and loving brother to JuneBoy.
Over the years, I had this feeling that as Ben lived his life so gracefully into his 15th year, that he’d find that one in a million kind of “end of life” which was going to bed one night and going to the Rainbow Bridge, but I feel as I type these words that in my heart and soul that Ben was taken to soon. It was not necessary, but this is only my belief and who knows what Ben’s Da was thinking. One has to wonder if it was that Ben was too much for him to take care of for just two days or that he just didn’t want to be bothered with an aging dog. There are still so many unanswered questions.
In times of contemplation, I wonder how easy we’ve made the taking of our little fur babies lives. Should we think twice about it and the process of an aging animal? And, rather than euthanizing, shouldn’t we be better prepared to take care of an aging animal?
It seems that euthanizing is more of an acceptable practice than keeping an aging animal. Perhaps having some kind of general rule or law in place to ensure that all members that care for the pet must agree with decisions by being there in person or signing a consent form. Why it is so easy for us to take in a young pup into our lives only to destroy it when it gets old and becomes a problem. What has happened to our humanity?
Now at least, I take consolation in that Ben is together with his little brother JuneBoy at the Rainbow Bridge, where they are enjoying each other’s company once again and waiting for their dear mama. I feel at times that I’ve failed my big boy, that what if I hadn’t gone to Austin, none of this would have happened and I’d still have my big boy with me to live out his life until his natural end of time.
I love you my Papadoll, and we shall meet again and be together for eternity. I know you and your little brother are now both together and are waiting for your Mama. Stay calm as you always do and keep JuneBoy from getting into trouble. Make sure he’s not talking too loud. You’ve been the best big boy and the best big brother to JuneBoy, and we would all be together one day. The way your life been taken has made things even worse and sadly will never be the same. I love you always my Papadoll.