Friday, May 3, 2024

Remembering Bentley

    There is one certainty in life and that is death. No matter how hard you try to avoid it, one day you are going to have to say good-bye to someone you love, and the pain will be unbearable. I know this because on February 3, 2024, we had to say our last good-bye to Bentley, the best Basset Hound ever. He was 16 years and 2 months old. Life will go on, but it will never be the same. This is the most difficult blog post that I’ve ever written. There will be tears shed and probably some ugly crying because I am trying to continue without my soul dog. When he left us, he also left a tremendous void in my life that can never be refilled.

   My first inclination is to share how much I hurt and how sad it was to let him go but that is not what Bentley was about at all. He was 50 pounds of love, humor and happiness. 100% pure Basset joy. I know that he does not want me to be this sad. I’m trying not to be for him and Pierre. I’m going to share with you some of the wonderful memories of the most wonderful dog I’ve ever known. We have so many that it is difficult to choose the ones to share. I will let him guide me as he does with all my writing.

   You can read how we came to be Bentley’s family on our Bentley’s Story tab. It was love at first sight with him and as the man whose birthday gift he was supposed to be said, “I think Melissa is supposed to have this puppy.” Truer words have never been spoken. Bentley was born to be our dog from the #7 on his hip (he was our 7th dog) to the inspiration for my book series. He filled my heart with a love I didn’t know I needed.

   Bentley was the cutest little pup with enormously long ears that he tripped over then jumped up like he meant to do a somersault. His precious gigantic paws got into everything! We once left him out of his kennel along with our senior Golden Retriever, Tucker, while we ran up to the 7-11. The entire trip couldn’t have been over 15 minutes long. Imagine our surprise when we returned home to see our living room carpet pulled up from the corner about 6’ out and the padding chewed and strown all over! Tucker let us know very quickly that it was not him but his crazy new little brother.

   As you look through the photos at the end of this post, you will notice only a few puppy favorites. I took a million pics of him that first year with my new flip phone and thankfully, Skipper took a bunch with his camera. Of course, his daily puppy antics were captured on my cell phone. Why aren’t I bombarding you with all of them? That’s a very funny story…Bentley and I have always snuggled on the floor but one day as I got up, unbeknownst to me, my shiny red phone fell out of my shirt pocket. It was a bit later when I reached for my phone that I realized it was gone and Bentley had been unusually quiet. Those two thoughts sounded alarms and I rushed to our room where Bentley sat with his big ol’ puppy dog eyes, a grin from one long ear to the other and his paws on my beautiful phone which was now chewed into pieces. I was crushed because this was before “the cloud” so when pictures were lost, they were simply lost. I cried and he gave me licks which to this day makes the memory a true Bentley moment. Much to his dismay, the rest of his life is pretty much in photographs.

   Bentley was just too darn cute and sweet to stay mad at for more than a couple of minutes and he used it to his advantage for 16.2 years. He could drive us crazy with his stubbornness but come put his head on your lap to apologize. Immediately all was forgiven, and we were putty in his paws. His mischief and stubbornness are now funny memories to cherish.

   I have a million stories over sixteen years that I’d love to share but nobody has time for all of that so I will tell you some things you might not know about him. We shared a lot of his life on this blog and invite you to scroll through some of his funny posts. Bentley had a wonderful sense of humor. He would do things for no other reason than to make us laugh. This realization is one of the reasons I am trying not to dwell on my grief of losing him but to begin remembering all the awesome times we shared. He would never want us to be this sad for this long, so we are trying. It’s been three months now and I can hardly proofread this post without breaking down. This is another reason it has taken me so long to publish my thoughts.

·       Bentley taught himself to sit up. He was just a little guy when he came and sat up in front of us as if he wanted to join our conversation. His posture was impeccable, and he could sit for long periods of time. I posted a pic of him sitting up on Twitter years ago and some guy messaged me to say he’d made a meme from my photo. It went viral and still gets thousands of likes/shares. If you ever see it, you can say “I know that good boy!” The caption reads, “Enough is enough, Stephanie. I need to know who the good boy is. My patience is worn thin.”

·       Belly rubs were life, and he would not hesitate to throw himself belly up in front of friends and strangers if he thought they were good for a scratch. My husband would pretend to shoot him with his finger, and he’d walk over and play dead at Skipper’s feet, so he’d rub his tummy. Bentley and I started our mornings on the floor with his head on my shoulder while I rubbed his belly. We did this for 16.2 years and I miss that more than words can explain.

·       He loved to travel and went to Nashville, Las Vegas and even toured the Grand Canyon. Road trips were fun for him, and he was a great passenger. He only howled once in his life, and it was when he was excited to go to the park. We began to howl, and he joined in for just a minute.

·       Food was important to Bentley, and he was an expert beggar. This caused him to be quite overweight as a young dog. We met Ms. Wendy from Dr. Harvey’s at a blogging conference in 2015, and it changed our lives. We became brand ambassadors that day and he began eating Canine Health along with some of their supplements. He dropped 20 pounds and maintained a great weight for the rest of his life. Vets could not believe how healthy he was in his senior years. Several told us they’d never seen a Basset Hound his age in such great shape! PLEASE NOTE: I credit Dr. Harvey’s exceptional food and supplements for Bentley’s longevity. We have never had a dog live such a long and healthy life. We are continuing our ambassadorship with Pierre because he needs to live at least 16 years and know this food and supplements gives him the best chance!

·       Every night Bentley would do the “Basset Hound Shuffle” and run ahead of us to his bed so he could get his bedtime treat delivered. We always said it was his version of a mint on his pillow. He never missed a single night. As he aged, he’d go to bed around 9:00pm and we’d stay up. They eat at 11:00pm due to Pierre’s IBD so at 10:20 pm, he’d get up and come sit with us so we’d know that he knew we should be thinking about feeding them. He’d eat, do his outside business and go back to bed. At 12:30a.m. if we were still up, he’d poke his head around the corner and give us “the look”. Most times, we’d get up, get his nighttime treat and all go to bed. If we stayed up later, he’d continue checking on us until in desperation, he’d come out of our room, sit in the doorway and began to “sigh” deeply as only he could manage. It’s a wonder we know when to do anything anymore. He was our literal watchdog.

·       Bentley had his favorite people and if you were one of the lucky ones, he loved you with his entire heart. Our family was everything to him. He loved our son so much that as a puppy, he used to tinkle just a bit whenever he came in the front door. I am so glad that his daughters were able to know and love Bentley. He made himself their personal protector and sat in the doorway of their playroom after seeing what they were doing. They might be our granddaughters, but they were HIS girls!

   Our daughter was one of his special loves. He adored her from day one and the feeling was mutual. She surprised us with a visit in December, so he was able to get lots of love and belly rubs from his sister. Best surprise ever!

·       Bentley had two dog best friends. When he was a puppy, Tucker the Golden Retriever was his role model. He was able to teach him how to stalk squirrels, eat acorns, alert us to snakes and how to be a good boy. When Tucker left us, we were lost. He had been our Golden Child and we missed him terribly. Bentley missed him even more if that’s possible. Believe me, there is nothing sadder than a depressed Basset Hound. That was when Pierre came to stay with us. The difference in Bentley was stunning. He was smiling and running around for the first time in weeks. We found ourselves smiling and laughing again along with them. Pierre belonged to our daughter, who was getting married and moving to Alaska. It was decided that Pierre would stay with us. Bentley had a new best friend, and we were once again a happy family of four.

·       We bought a laser light for Pierre one Christmas because he is so cat-like in some of his actions, we thought he’d love it. Much to our surprise, it was Bentley who loved chasing the light around. He’d tap Skipper’s leg and go look at where we kept the laser. He enjoyed the laser more than any other toy.

·       My writing career began because of Bentley and the #7 on his side. We knew he was given to us for a reason but couldn’t figure it out. Sitting in the backyard one day, my husband called Bentley, “#7”. He pointed out the perfect 7 on our puppy’s left hip. It was so obvious. As we looked in awe at his number, we quickly realized he was our 7th dog. Kind of freaky, right? We contacted Seagrams 7 and 7-Up thinking he’d be the perfect advertisement. Fate knows best and it wasn’t long before the idea of an F.B.I. agent with a badge #7 who dies and comes back as a Basset Hound was born.

   Once I began writing his story it flowed like a river. I’d wake up in the night with The Returns talking to me and would have to write things down. Bentley has always “talked” to us, but he was really enjoying spinning this story. The second book, The Returns 2 ~ Showstoppers, included THE quote that has become famous all over the world. It’s been in magazines, books, and painted on the side of a pet store. I’m listed in the 50 Famous Dog Quotes between Agatha Christie and Charles deGaulle! I can promise you that would never have happened if it hadn’t been for Bentley. That is why when I say, “He changed my life.” I mean he actually changed my life. I will have a quote that will live on long after I join him in our next forever. I am very proud of this accomplishment, but the credit always goes to Bentley and I never failed to tell him whenever I’d see it published.

·       I began my blog as an Indie author with book reviews, etc. It wasn’t long after I began that I discovered pet blogging was a thing. It was perfect for me because like most pet parents, there is nothing I love more than talking about my dogs and showing off photos of them.

As a blogging Basset, Bentley was hilarious. The boys did a BFTB NETWoof News each week that drew in hundreds of viewers. We did regular product reviews for Dr. Harvey’s, Chewy, Treatibles, Pridebites, along with hundreds of independent toys, shampoos, chews and treats. The Bayou Boys never missed out on any new dog products and were considered authorities by many of our readers. The boys accompanied us to two blogging conferences. We walked the Red Carpet with them, and they loved all the attention. One of our favorite memories was walking into a room with the boys where people would say “Hey! It’s Bentley and Pierre!” They never once said, “Hey! It’s Melissa and Skipper!” The Bayou Boys were stars and the perfect comedy duo.

·       Bentley was terrified of thunderstorms and fireworks. We used to nap during the evening if a storm was expected overnight because we knew there would not be any sleeping until the thunder passed. Thankfully, when we moved to Houston six years ago, the thunderstorms were much less severe, and he only had to endure a few before his hearing allowed him to ignore the noise.

·       Bentley loved being clean so bathtime was never a problem. He used to climb in the tub for me. The funniest thing was his love of having his teeth brushed. If he was in the yard and I wanted him to come inside, all I had to do was show him his toothbrush and he’d come running. Our vets were also always impressed with his pearly whites.

   I know Bentley’s passing seemed sudden to most of you and I apologize for the shock. We noticed a lump on the back of his right thigh last November. A trip to the vet confirmed our worst fear. He had soft cell carcinoma and because of the tumor’s location along with his age, it was inoperable. Our vet told us to take him home and love him for as long as we had with him. I chose not to tell everyone because sharing it on social media would make it too real. He acted fine and although he slowed down considerably, he was happy, loving and oh so loved until his last breath. I’ve put off writing this blog post not just because it is so painful, but it once again makes it too real. My baby boy is gone, and we have to try to be okay until we see him again.

   I could honestly write about our lives together for another sixteen years. I loved every dog and cat that has left pawprints deep in my heart, but Bentley was different. He was my soul dog and I think life only gives you one of those dogs if you’re very lucky. The moment Bentley came into my life, I became the luckiest person in the world. He made me a better human and personified my quote:

“The world would be a nicer place if everyone had the ability to love as unconditionally as a dog.”

Forever Bentley