The second dog who changed my life was Bou Bou. Laugh at her name if you want... I know it sounds funny. :) Her real name was Queen Silvia's Marabou Chocolate. When we got Spot, it wasn't long before my parents decided that he needed a friend.
One day my dad told me we were going to the library and loaded my brother and I into the car. Mind you, the library is about five minutes away from our house. After about half an hour of driving, and me continually telling my dad he had gone the wrong way, he relented and admitted that we were lost. He pulled up to a house and told us that he would be right back because he was going inside to ask for directions. I remember thinking, "He's doing what?" My dad had never asked for directions, let alone stopped at a random persons house to do so. And since when did we get lost on the way to the library?
A few minutes later, my dad walked outside holding something in his arms. He opened the van door as I gasped!!! It was a small chocolate puppy. That moment is one of the most vivid of my entire childhood. He handed her to me gently and she snuggled into my lap. My little brother nagged and nagged me to hand her over, and when I finally did, she promptly peed all over him. He almost threw her back at me and I knew I was in love (with her face, not that peeing on my brother hurt either). That chocolate baby was mine.
Over the years, Bou Bou amazed me. She was a best friend to Spot and ever more patient than he was. She was wildly in love with babies and children. I can recall one memory when we were having a pool party with another family. I was in the pool with my siblings and their kids. All four adults (my parents and the other couple) were talking, having left their sleeping baby in its car seat by the gate. I heard the baby begin to scream hysterically, but apparently, the children in the pool were screaming louder so the adults didn't notice. I couldn't pick the baby up, being soaking wet. I looked around helplessly for a few moments, when the crying stopped as suddenly as it had begun. I turned to see what had happened and there was Bou Bou with her nose sticking through the fence just far enough for her to rock the baby's car seat and lull it back to sleep. I have never seen anything like it in my life.
Another vivid memory I have of Bou Bou was one that changed me forever. Literally. I came home from the store with my mom and she told me to go play. I took a popsicle out into the backyard with me to go play with Bou Bou. As I walked out the door and braced myself to be licked up and down, I noticed that no giant chocolate dog had yet drenched me in slobber. I immediately grew concerned. I ran around the backyard looking for her. Finally I saw her on the side of the house. She had dug a small hole in the dirt shallow enough to lay down in. She was breathing heavily and whining. I dropped my popsicle immediately. She was in labor.
I sat there, a young girl, and helped deliver her whole litter of puppies... Thirteen puppies. I cried with joy at this incredible sight. I stroked her head and told her that she was doing a good job. And for the first time in my life, I physically saw the glory and strength of a mother bringing her children into this world. I knew that this would be one of the greatest moments of my life someday. Bou Bou was the best mother I have ever seen in an animal.
Sometimes I thought she may have mistaken me for one of her puppies. When I was in high school, my parents decided that our backyard was no longer big enough for two labs and gave them to my grandparents who live in Sierra Vista. Needless to say, I didn't speak to them for a while, but I know my dogs did truly enjoy the vast backyard that they moved to. Spot passed away a few short months after the move from some sort of bite. When this happened Bou Bou acted even more attached each time I visited. I would sleep outside in the hammock and she would nestle herself just beneath me all night long. Up until the day she died, she knew who I was, knew my voice, and showed me all the love any person could ever ask for.
My grandparents moved up to Phoenix when I graduated high school, and once again, I was able to see my Bou Bou much more often. Then during my freshman year, a few days after Christmas, I got a call from my dad that I had hoped would never come. Bou Bou's stomach tumor had grown to the point that she could no longer eat or even get up. I needed to get to the animal hospital immediately.
When I arrived, it was quite like that awful chapter from Marley and Me. Bou Bou hated the car and was already terrified at being put in the back of my Grandpa's van. I practically lept into the van and gently scooped her up in my arms. I can explain what it's like to hold someone you love so much and watch them leave this life. I felt her breathing slow as she calmed herself in my arms. She watched my face to see if everything was going to be alright. And then she left me.
I loved my dogs. They jumped on me, slobbered everywhere, ate my Barbies, howled at every ambulance and police car, and pooped an awful lot. But if you asked me who my best friends were growing up, my answer is undoubtedly, "Spot and Bou Bou." Their imperfect, fearless, and crazy joy at every turn of life taught me so very much.
I would not be who I am without them. When Bou Bou died, I promised myself that one day, I would get dogs to raise with my children, so that they could learn the lessons that my dogs had taught me... Bou Bou traded her thin, lean body for three litters of puppies. She loved them all. She traded her dark chocolate fur for the years to love me longer. She gave me everything.
The other day while speaking with someone, we stumbled upon the topic of animals (pets to be precise). I mentioned how I had had four dogs in my lifetime who I have loved dearly... All chocolate labs as a matter of fact. The person looked quite aghast and responded, "Four dogs?! How can you have had 'love' for four dogs? It takes enough out of me to love one." I chuckled and went on with the conversation, but inside of me a little voice incredulously shouted, "What?" Obviously this person
A) doesn't love my dogs...
B) or doesn't understand how love works...
In case the answer is A, let me tell you about my dogs. There is too much for one post, so I'll write one post about each dog.
I had two chocolate labs growing up. We got one when I was five and one when I was six.
My boy, Spot (short for General Lee's Victory at the Battle of Spotsylvania), was one year old when we got him and he had been chained to a pole in someone's backyard for the majority of that time. Someone bought that beautiful stud of dog and didn't realize he would have a personality and a desire for time and affection attached. When he got to us, he was wild and crazy, always happy to jump up on you and lick you face to show how happy he was that someone was finally coming out the back door to play with him.
No matter how hard I tried to teach him to calm down, he inevitably scared every one of my friends by jumping on them and kissing them. Yet, here I would find myself, a young child flat on my back with a hundred pound solid muscle dog on top of me... and I was happy. I laughed. I knew he never meant any harm. I wasn't that way when we first got him, but having him changed me. It made me see more than what my eyes could show me.
Once I heard one of my friend's mothers call Spot "stupid" because of his bounding, joyous, affectionate attitude. I was extremely upset, but I didn't know what to think. I was just a kid, whose dogs were heroes to her. Then one night in sixth grade, I had my an experience with the pain that girls can cause when they want to exclude you from their group and make fun of you. I came home and thinking that telling anyone would simply be tattling on them, so I kept it all inside. That night when I went outside to feed my dogs, I was quickly shoveling the dog food into their metal bowls, when I stopped. Something wasn't right.
It was... quiet. I looked around for my jumping Spot (and other dog) and to my surprise, Spot sat beside me, head cocked and not moving. I looked at him trying to figure out what was wrong. After looking around for a moment to see if I had missed something, I looked at him. He was still sitting there staring at me. Suddenly he leaned forward and gently licked my hand, before nudging my leg as if trying to hug me. It dawned on me in that moment, that he knew I was upset. Call me crazy, a girl just imagining what would help her cope, or whatever else you want... but looking into his eyes, I knew he was sad for me. I sat down right there in the grass and cried, clutching him in my arms. All the while, my crazy, jumping dog never moved. He knew he was needed right then.
Spot taught me not to fear others because of the way they look. He was a massive, muscular, jumping dog... but all he wanted was to love me. He taught me never to judge other people and to be there when someone you love needs you. I wish I could show you picture of him in all his blocky, strong chocolate glory, but I only have one blurry picture of him. The good ones are all in my mind.
He looked an awful lot like this, except bigger... I know it looks hard to believe, but it's true. He looked like a small brown bear. And he wore a chain just like this...