This is not the normal blog post for my page, but this special family member needs a proper goodbye to acknowledge all of the joy he brought the 17 years he was with us.
At the end of 1999, two small Jack Russell Terriers, although one significantly bigger than the other, became part of our family. We named them Ben and Jerry (‘like the ice-cream’) because ‘Tom’ didn’t quite have the same ring when you excitedly called a puppy.
I remember thinking they were the best things that I could have possibly imagined. We went through puppy training and teaching them to swim. Each year they grew in size and in personality. Jerry was always this over-excited bundle of madness. Eager to give you as many kisses as he possibly could and would follow you like a lost sheep, always making funning noises to remind you he was there (if he wasn’t barking). And we love him for that.
Ben however, was always different. You know the dogs that remind you of old, wise men? He always had that reserved attitude. This sense of calm and intelligence – entirely independent. He was quite selective with his love, too. As you can see in one the photos above, he wasn’t overly impressed with cuddling. He’d politely growl if you tried (it makes me laugh just thinking about it), just to tell you he was too serious for affection but that he’d put up with it, if you insisted.
I think this is what I admire most about ‘my baby’. He’d always let me hold him, and dance around the living room with him in my arms, grumbling all the while but obviously content with the silliness. If you were led on the floor next to him, he’d gingerly come over… press his nose lightly on your eyelids – always – and that was his way of showing he loved you. A proper dog.
But he wasn’t all serenity. Ben was a complete pain when he wanted to be. ‘The Escape Artist’. I don’t think we ever truly found a way to keep him from running off to go explore the island. Through the bushes and off to houses to look for food (not that he needed it!). After staying home from school one day, I actually watched him figure out how to climb out of a practically closed window just to run off to the Green Turtle Club.
He wasn’t any cat’s best friend either which believe me was as stressful for us as it was the cats. One eventually taught him a bit of lesson with a pretty stern slap to the face and I think he changed his mind about chasing them up trees. After a few terrifying moments of him leaping (and then dramatically tumbling) off of a moving golf cart to chase chickens, I’m amazed he lived to nearly 17.
He also never came back when you called him and he’d go to exactly the places he shouldn’t have. Like ‘The Dump’ (where all of our trash on the island goes). He came home once with paws cut so badly from broken glass that I had to bandage them with almost all of the content of our First Aid kit (he wasn’t best pleased). For years after, he’d always pull away if you tried to touch them. He was a fearless daredevil, but clever.
And loyal. He was very protective of all of us and I don’t think anyone, if they had every tried to, would have challenged him to hurt us. But I think what I’ll miss the most is his bravery. I can’t count the times Ben would swim out to me if I was in the ocean. He’d just do it to check everything was okay while Jerry frantically barked on the shore (he wasn’t a huge fan of the ocean – more so the waves) and he’d paddle all the way back. And he’d do it again and again. Just to be sure.
I’ll miss giving him baths and his mad determination to get dry as quickly as possible – running like a maniac around the house, slipping over and into things all the while trying to outrun a yet again barking Jerry, wanting to find another towel or rug to roll on. I’ll miss how he sighed like an old man. The weird noises he made when he really wanted to inhale whatever treat you had in front of his face but was too polite to snatch. He’d wait until it was right by his mouth, he’d check it out, then check with you that it was OK to eat it and then gently take it from you. I don’t know where he got his manners from but many of dogs could have learnt a lot from him – including Jerry!
And that was my Big Ben. My selectively lovely, fiercely independent yet loyal pup. I am so grateful that his last days were spent comfortably, and I’m so proud of him for fighting on for as long as he could. And although I’m incredibly sad to not have one more day at the beach with the two of them and one more growly hug with a nose kiss… I’m more grateful that he had an incredibly good life. My island dog. And I’m so proud of Jerry, thankfully ambivalent to the loss, who has continued to bring joy and light to our lives.
Having a pet brings this risk of losing them, and the sadness that comes with that. And you often feel silly to cry over ‘something’ you can’t necessarily communicate with but you try to tell 8…9…10..14…17…25-year-old me that pets can’t mean just as much to you as a person. Especially when their characters shine so brightly as Ben’s did.
So goodnight, my Big Ben.
I’ll always carry you in my heart xxx