We could have named him “Buggy” instead of “Bogey,” because he consumes moths and fireflies as if they were candy. If the boys were still kids, we might have named him “Tigger,” because he can bounce high enough to see food at countertop level apparently without flexing his legs. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
We got our first Labrador retriever — Gus — 15 years ago, and life changed immediately for the better. Gus was a chocolate Lab, an easygoing fellow who was always glad to play, nap, or travel. We went everywhere together, and he lay quietly beside my chair as I wrote three books and innumerable columns. If I got frustrated with a piece, I’d sometimes talk to Gus about it, and he always nodded, grunted, or woofed the right answer.
As Gus got older, we fretted over his age and he soon had a roommate. Hank, a yellow Lab, was his polar opposite. Hank was never bad, but he seemed as if he were a reincarnated fighter pilot: quick to get into trouble and just as quick to charm his way out of it. He earned his nickname: “Chewsama bin Barkin,” puppy terrorist. Gus and I would retreat into my office, our personal sanctuary. Hank was ineligible to go into what Sharon called the “big boys’ club.”
By 2009, when Gus passed away, Hank had calmed down a lot. After another year, when our 16-year-old cat, Meathead, had to be put down Hank moped around, lonely. And, to be truthful, so did I.
Sharon and I then had a long discussion about getting a new dog. She favored something called a “Goldendoodle,” because they don’t shed. My point was twofold: first, no self-respecting dog would allow itself to be called a “doodle,” and second, what I’ll call the Labrador Doctrine. We knew Labs have the best personality and make the best companions. Buying a dog is like adopting a kid: you don’t send back the ones you don’t like. I won on points, and the result is Bogey.
Bogey’s another chocolate Lab, and though he’s much like Gus, he’s not Gus the Second. He’s Bogey and he’s just as wonderful in his own way. He’s calm, smart, and generous in a very human way. And he may be the most expensive dog ever.
We spent a long summer weekend with our friends Mike and Tricia in Virginia Beach. They have a pool, and insisted that we bring Hank and Bogey with us. Hank is scared of the water, which is very odd in a Lab. Bogey was unsure, but once he got in he looked as if he were trying out for the dog Olympics.
At one point, I tossed the toy Hank had been playing with into the pool to get him to jump in. But he just stood at one side, whining. Bogey swam over, paddled the toy to the edge, climbed out, and dropped it at Hank’s feet. We all cheered and I think Bogey appreciated being appreciated. And then the clincher. Sharon had a couple of long, thin Styrofoam-like floats under her arms. When Bogey figured he could get a free ride through the water by putting his forelegs on the floats and his hind legs on Mom’s knees, his smile lit up an already sunny day. He rode back and forth contentedly until he wore Mom out.
Which brings me to the expensive part. The Boss wants to build a pool in the backyard for her and Bogey to swim in. And a couple of extra levels of decking down to the pool. I have no idea whether we can afford it, but we’ll find a way. It’ll be worth it just to see Bogey and Mom smiling.