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Nate and Booker. My vision of heaven, a field full of yellow flowers.

Booker arrived at O’Hare on a bright sunny day in April. His breeder, Brenda Griffen, said he cried once when the baggage handler wheeled him away. I put him in the Bernese Mountain Dog sized crate behind me and drove to the vet for his vet check. He splashed in the water dish on the way.

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Nate and Booker soon after Booker arrived. Easter Sunday. Nate used to gaze at me like that when I drove him to agility or herding.

He was born in February, 2001, not long after we said goodbye to our Bernese Mountain dog, Laager. (Laager introduced me to the idea that you look for what’s good in an animal’s effort, in a person, that you speak to that. He taught me how to reward quiet and focus on me. He taught me how to be a teacher.) I have said Booker was Laager come back because he would cross his paws in front of each other, and do things Laager did, and sometimes I think dogs come back to us.

I named him Pennycaerau’s I Witness, Booker for short, after Harrison Ford in the movie Witness.

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Photo by Tien Tran Photography.

He came as my second show dog and agility dog. We thought he’d be fast in agility though Booker didn’t finish his championship and only earned a novice jumpers title. 

He’d shake on the agility start line, so much so a veterinarian and fellow competitor, noted how upset he looked. That was his last trial. Bruce’s mother was ill, so I let the sport go. Nate, on the other hand, finished several championships and earned his excellent agility title in three different venues. Tears stand in my eyes when I watch people’s videos of their dogs running. 

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Photo by Alissa Behn, Pet Personalities

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Photo by Alissa Behn, Pet Personalities

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Photo by Mr. Jakubowski

Booker taught me that  you don’t have to finish a championship or agility title to feel complete with your dog. He knew how to love. He comforted Bruce’s mother in her last days, walking into the nursing home and her living room, wagging his butt and dancing to see her. He hopped on the couch next to me, his back against my thigh, and I’d feel rich in the best ways to feel rich, a good dog by my side. He grinned lifting his lips, wiggling his body, when Bruce said, “Show me your smile.”

About six years ago Booker stopped pooping because of a tumor local vets could not find. When I drove him to Madison, not long before Christmas, I thought I’d walk out without him, but Dr. Clare said it was a benign tumor, that neutering would make him better. They admitted him that next Monday and fixed him. If he’d gone then, I would have been crushed because my job, pneumonia and possible MS, were breaking me. But Booker came back.

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Bruce loved him well, waking up to walk him first thing and when Booker wandered around, threatening to pee on the rug, Bruce jumped up to take him out, usually in the middle of a favorite program. 

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Booker slowed down, began sleeping the sleep of an old dog at peace. He became a picky eater. He stayed with us for a few weeks short of fifteen years, nearly half the time Bruce and I have been married. 

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This quote from C.S. Lewis’ The Four Loves kept running through my head the last couple days. “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”  

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Booker and Night

“Watch, O Lord, with those who wake, or watch or weep tonight,and give  Your angels and saints charge over those who sleep. Tend your sick ones, O Lord Christ. Rest Your weary ones. Bless your dying ones. Soothe Your suffering ones. Shield your joyous ones, and all for your Love’s sake. Amen.” The Divine Hours.

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Thank you to Leida Jones and Brenda Griffen, of PennYCaerau, for sending us such great, great dogs in Nate, Booker and Night. You have bred them well, to be long lived dogs with Nate living to nearly be 16 and Booker to nearly 15.

Thank you to Dr. Guedet, the staff at Perryville Pet Hospital, Dr. Thrall and the staff at Animal Emergency Clinic in Rockford for helping him and being such fine professionals. 

Goodbye sweet little dog. Puppy. Goodbye Booker. Even though you slept most of the time, the house is sure quiet without you. We’ll miss how you hopped joyously on those good days. I’ll miss the names I used only with you. 

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“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God” (NIV, Rom. 8: 18 -20).

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Sunrise, our last walk together.

22 Comments

  • Gayla says:

    Beautifully written with such love.

  • Kristen says:

    I am so sorry for your loss, but do understand the love, joy and memories gained by having your Booker.

  • donna says:

    such beautiful sentimental sharing of Booker’s life – I know he took a piece of your heart with him. Sorry for your loss

  • Frankie says:

    An excellent piece honoring your beautiful family member.

  • Betsy says:

    When our furry friends cross the Rainbow Bridge, they take a portion of our hearts with them. This is a terrific bio of a wonderful friend. Thank you for writing it with all your usual charm.

    • katiewilda says:

      Betsy thank you so much for the condolences and encouragement on the writing.. We are doing a lot of crying…

  • Darlene Elsbury says:

    So precious, our animal children. So special, Booker’s sweet heart and kind soul. How lucky we are when God blesses us with a gentle creature that feels hand-picked, perfectly suited for us , one that helps us blossom into someone stronger, wiser, and more compassionate than how we were before their happy-hot breath came along.
    Whenever my heart is pained by dear dog farewells that seem impossible to bear, my grateful prayer to God is, “Thank you, Lord, for the long and loving loan.” Like you, I look forward to hugging and seeing them again on the other side. I pray for you and Bruce celebrating an amazing child’s life and bidding him adieu on his return home .

    • katiewilda says:

      What a beautiful response to this. Yes, Booker and Nate were handpicked for us. I hear you on the thanksgiving. Booker showed me the goodness of the Lord. Thank you for your prayers…

  • Shari tyson says:

    Im so sorry Katie. What an outstanding tribute to Booker. My heart breaks with yours ❤

  • Very nice Katie. You captured the feeling we have when we say goodbye to the old ones, so special.

    • katiewilda says:

      Thank you so much. It is hard to say goodbye to them even they are old and frail and a lot of work…

    • katiewilda says:

      Thank you so very much. I loved Kyle’s poem. Thank you for posting it for me. Imagine all those dogs jumping on us when we get to the bridge…There is something special about those old dogs who sleep and sleep, then come alive for brief bursts of joy.

  • From one dog lover to another…Your testimony of love for Booker, and all he meant to you and Bruce, testifies to the gift of unconditional love dogs shower on us. I envision that God was actively directing the evolutionary process that brought us loyal and faithful dogs out of wolves – something that scientists now say changed human history forever. As Ralph Hodgson has said, “Some things have to be believed to be seen.”

    • katiewilda says:

      Thank you so much Connie for reading this and understanding.

      There was a New York Times article on just that, how scientists are studying ancient dog DNA to figure out just where they came from, and that there is some thinking they created themselves. There’s a book The Invaders about the ancient human/dog partnership that I want to read someday. The author, Pat Shipman, is one of my Facebook friends. You could friend her maybe?

      The evolutionary process is pretty amazing. (I read Rohr this morning too.) The Horse by Wendy Williams is a marvelous description of that process that helped me understand because it focused on one species–horses through the eons…At any rate thank you…

  • Rachel Simon says:

    Just seeing this post now. What a beautiful creature, and what a loving tribute. He lives a long, full life, rich in your care and generous with his teaching. My heart breaks for you as you adjust to his absence. May his memory stir your heart as long as you live.

    • katiewilda says:

      Oh Rachel, thank you so much. Booker was a great dog. I wish I could reach through to his picture and hug him again. I think you met him too…I hope he comes back, as I think dogs sometimes do…