In March of 2011, well before Jeff Goins ever told me I was a writer and a few months before The GBOAT existed, I sat down and wrote some thoughts about the passing of a dog. I’ve thought before about sharing it before but never have gotten around to it. So here you go. Enjoy.
I come from a family of brothers. I know that’s an obvious statement, but I feel like the brotherly bond is sometimes overlooked. It is an association that is always there. All my time in Clinton, I got comments like “Oh, you’re Anthony’s brother!” or “Hey, I have your brother Nathan for a class this semester” or “Yeah, you’re Adam’s older brother, right?”. In fact, just the other night I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in a few weeks. The first thing he said was “Are you kin to the sports radio guy Anthony Craven?” Anthony can live a few hours away, but I can’t escape his power.
Because that’s what brothers do: we have a constant association with each other. A constant bond. Age, location, and even species can’t get in the way.
I always loved dogs. That seems like a sudden segue, but trust me on this. As a baby, I would push myself in my little walker up to the back door just to stare at our golden Cocker Spaniel, Honey. Then I would point out the door and proudly proclaim “Dog-a!” It was my first word (or close enough). I’ve been butchering the English language non-stop since.
When I was seven years old, the people that lived behind us had a litter of Cocker Spaniel puppies. There were two tiny pups, one black, one white, who had some sort of fungus that prevented hair from growing on their paws. Because of this, our neighbors couldn’t exactly sell the two runts. And since dog loving me and little 2 year old Adam were so excited to see puppies, they were offered to us, so long as we got the medicine to treat the fungus.
Thus, we welcomed two furry brothers into our family: one named after the color of his fur, and the other named after the Mississippi State mascot.
And Bully and Pepper stayed thick as thieves. They could jump unlike any other dogs I’ve ever seen, springing up to get eye level when they scratched at the door for attention. They wore out paths in the backyard that they would follow: one right down the middle of the yard, and then splitting off to follow our fence line. They stuck to the paths religiously, no matter where they were actually planning on walking to. And they were constantly walking there together.
Don’t get me wrong: they fought. A lot. Sometimes it was scary to see them growling, teeth exposed, throwing each other around. But without fail, every time that one would go down, the other would instantly stop growling and check on him to make sure he was fine. I’ve never quite seen that before with dogs: that blend of fighting mixed with sudden caution and care.
But that’s what brothers do. Yes, we disagree. Yes, sometimes we flat out fight. But without fail, things are cool again. Sometimes within seconds. Because we just understand that whatever spat we had isn’t actually going to get in the way.
On December 31, 2000, it snowed in Mississippi. In fact, it snowed quite a bit everywhere, it seems like. Shreveport, Louisiana, where my brothers were, was covered in powder, and led to a very interesting Independence Bowl between Texas A&M and our Mississippi State Bulldogs.
I had some friends over that night, and we were cutting from the front yard to the back yard through the side gate. Right when we came through, we heard from inside that State was driving at the end of the game to try and win it. So we ran inside quickly.
Leaving the gate open.
Now I’m not sure I’ve ever actually admitted this, but I’m about 99% sure it was me that left that gate open. Consequently, it means that Bully and Pepper ran away. Hours later, after we discovered this fact, we went driving through the neighborhood, panicking, looking for them out there in the cold and snow. We found Bully a few neighborhoods away, shivering and dirty and scared and most terrifyingly, alone. It was a sad sight to see, but we had found him. Pep, however, was nowhere to be seen.
Thankfully, we received a call the next morning from our Vet’s office. Somebody had found Pep and seen his tag with the Vet info on it, so they had taken him there. He stayed the night in warmth and comfort, unlike what Bully experienced. But he was still alone, and though he walked back into the house with his head held high from being spoiled like he was, his first instinct was to head straight to Bully and check on him.
Because that’s what brothers do. Look out for each other. I’m pretty sure it was the only time they ever spent apart.
About 8 years ago (and someone who knows better can correct me if I’m wrong), Pep started to have trouble with his heart and in particular, heartworms, as Cockers are often prone to. The Vet let us know close to Thanksgiving time that nothing more could be done to help him and he had to be put down.
While we were all at school, my mom got ready to take Pep to the Vet so we wouldn’t have to deal with it. She opened up the backdoor, expecting the furry brothers to charge into the house excitedly like they always did. However, this time, Pep was the only one who made a move. He walked slowly, head down, like he knew this was it. Bully didn’t move. He laid down outside. It’s almost like they knew.
Over the next few days, Bully didn’t do anything. He didn’t want to eat. He didn’t want to run. He just laid in the backyard and howled. He knew his brother wasn’t here anymore.
Bully had to be put on doggy anti-depressants. Go ahead and laugh. We certainly have laughed about that a lot over the years. What, they make Prozac for pups? But the fact remains: Bully was torn up about it.
Because that’s what brothers do: we care. And God forbid we have to go through the loss of one of ours.
Even though I haven’t really lived at my house in Clinton in years, it was always good to return home and visit the old man that Bully had grown into. He eventually finished his mourning process and lived for several more years. And no matter how long it had been since I visited, he would instantly walk up and greet me at the door because he knew family was there.
On Saturday, March 19th, I went to the house after a friend’s wedding. My parents were gone, but I went inside to watch basketball and visit the old man. His health had started to fail him in the last month, and though he couldn’t see or hear well, he instantly got up to say hello. We sat around for a while, and though he was coughing every few seconds, we had some quality time.
Bully’s heart, though, had gotten enlarged and there was nothing else that could be done to keep him going. On Thursday, March 24th, I walked into my office to see I had a text. It was from my mom, letting me know that he had passed away. I sat down and let it sink in a bit. We had known it was coming. He was OLD. But you know, you just can’t prepare fully for that. I only cry over family related matters. I teared up when I read that message.
Because that’s what brothers do: we care, even for our furry brothers.
Regardless of age, location, or even species, brothers have a bond. I’m very thankful to have spent 16 solid years with Bully, and I’m grateful beyond all words to have been blessed with 23 years with Anthony, Nathan, and Adam, not to mention several years now with an awesome sister, Tracy, and now a furry nephew, Beasley.
So I guess what I’m really trying to say is that brothers are great, and I’m gonna really miss that dog.