Most of you know how much I love the Boston Terrier breed. What you may not know, is just how much I love one Boston Terrier in particular—Bronx, my sister and brother-in-law’s dog—a boy as tough as his namesake.
While he calls my sister and brother-in-law, “Mommy” and “Daddy,” he has been a vital part of our family for 11 years, almost as long as I’ve been married.
That’s the thing with dogs. They become more than just pets: they grow on you, and the longer you spend time with them, the more deeply you fall in love.
But, it wasn’t always so with me and Bronx.
I actually used to be scared of dogs! If I saw one walking towards me on the sidewalk, a panic would hit, and I would frantically plot the quickest detour I could take in order to avoid it, praying that the owner was kind, and the dog, not keen on sensing my overwhelming fear.
Now, I’m an enthusiastic dog-lover who can’t get enough of running into, meeting, and playing with most of the dogs in my neighbourhood. If you live near me and you have a dog, we’re probably already friends—and it may be more credit to your dog than you realize, not that I would ever admit that.
There’s Sadie, a sweet Golden Lab; Abbey, a mellow Shepherd Lab who knows never to cross her driveway, but will come and greet me every time I pass her house; Reuger, a gorgeous and intelligent German Shepherd who is far more interested in trains than he is, squirrels; Andy, a white Poodle, who loves to snuggle my white winter coat; Lady, a sprite Cocker Spaniel, who patiently waits for her person to cross the street in her walker; and Zeus, a 17-week-old Retriever Poodle whose giddiness is absolutely contagious.
But, it was Bronx who started it all. He was the dog responsible for my change of heart.
His “tough” demeanor is actually misleading because his personality exemplifies obedience, dignity, tenderness, protectiveness, and a deep sense of love.
He was not only born of a champion breed, but from a champion lineage, a line of winners, First in Show. But it’s not only telling in his bloodline, it’s ever apparent in Bronx’s personality. He always had the guts and the integrity of a champion. Bronx, despite his bulk and terrier bloodline—is all heart.
He’s one of the most obedient dogs I’ve ever met or have ever known. And I don’t believe he is obedient simply because he was “well-trained” (even though his training was really quite good)—but a natural part of his tendency to listen because his obedience seems to stem from his inherent, good nature. He is just that kind of dog.
But, this past Friday, he was diagnosed with cancer.
The news was not only devastating, but absolutely unexpected, almost baffling to comprehend for us who know and love him deeply.
He was fine the last time I saw him. He was fine.
But, so much had changed in hearing the news and receiving that one diagnosis.
His x-rays showed three, large tumours in his lungs, which they themselves, filled up with fluid, making it extremely difficult for him to breathe. His breathing was laboured, jerking in and out, a painful exercise not only to watch, but to hear. To imagine what it felt like for Bronx, himself, is a whole other matter, and something I don’t particularly like thinking about.
Still, he never stopped loving us, nor did he ever stop trying to show us his love, even if his body made it so difficult to do so.
And even though he would sporadically collapse due a lack of oxygen to his brain, he still tried to get up, and greet us, each and every time we came to visit.
If he couldn’t do that, he would at the most, lift his head to look, see, and acknowledge us.
If he heard the kids chatting away in the living room, he would limp from the front foyer, through the kitchen, to under the table, and watch them from a distance, as if to say,
Hey, guys…whatcha doin’? I’m not really feeling well,…actually, I feel terrible… but I just want to be near you.
And when he couldn’t take it anymore, he would quietly limp back to his bed to lie down and rest.
One of the hardest things to watch was to see him not race back and forth in the backyard like he used to love to do, as soon as he was outside—and then not be able to climb up the steps to return indoors on his own. Instead, my brother-in-law had to carry him inside, something he’s never had to do before.
Bronx’s body could only take so much—and his Mommy and Daddy could take no more. They could no longer bear to see him suffer the cruel consequences of such a debilitating disease.
Cancer. The finality of the word and its impact is chilling. It doesn’t discriminate, it simply attacks. Its voracious nature to diminish the quality of life and the lives of our loved ones is extraordinarily simple and relentless, which makes it unbelievably bewildering and cruel. And its perfect function in satisfying its objective, has so far, eluded our abilities to stop it and find a cure.
Currently, 7.6 million people die from cancer worldwide every year, while an estimated 6 million dogs will be diagnosed with cancer this year alone. Those figures are staggering. Cancer has claimed the lives of 9 people in my family alone.
And because Bronx’s condition was so severe, his doctor at the veterinary hospital had offered the option of putting him to sleep immediately after giving the news to his parents about his prognosis.
But, that, my sister and brother-in-law could not bear. The news had just been delivered. They wanted to give their beloved “firstborn boy,” one last chance to smell and feel the summer air outside, to pace the grass in the backyard (which he loved to do), and to taste his last meal—and of course, to see and say goodbye to those who love him most—us, his family.
It has been a trying time for all of us. For those who never knew Bronx, nor ever met him, nor ever enjoyed the privilege of having him as part of their own family—or to those who have never known what it is to love a “pet” so much that this animal becomes not only a cherished friend, companion, and loved one, but also a vital member in the family—one equal to that of a child, a brother, or a sister; one may be cruel and unkind enough to think or say, “It’s okay, it’s just a dog.”
To that, I say, No—Bronx was never ever just a dog to us.
He is and always will be our boy—the one who loved to sit at our feet just to feel our presence and to be near us because he loved being around people.
He will always be the one whom we trusted would protect us fiercely even if it meant he would risk his own life in order to save ours—especially my nephew’s life, a little boy who only recently turned five-years-old.
Bronx inherently knew and loved us in a way our own blood relatives are supposed to: unconditionally. Some could even argue that Bronx loved and cared for us more. His loyalty and obedience is unparalleled.
While he was primarily my sister and brother-in-law’s dog, his relationship and love wasn’t bound to them alone. He was and is, part of our Garcia-Yarra Family.
And he will always be the most dignified champion of his line and of his breed.
As much as I love Boston Terriers (they are one of my favourite breeds), I will never quite love another dog like I love this Boston Terrier. There will never ever be another character quite like him.
Today, my sister and brother-in-law had to do one of the most difficult things they have ever had to do in their lives. Today, they took their “firstborn” boy to the hospital to put him to sleep.
Today, my nephew lost his “big brother.” Today, my mom and dad lost their “granddog.” Today, my children learned about death in one of the most painful ways a child can experience it when they lose a loved one. And today, I lost my Good Boy—our ever-reigning champ…
We’ve been crying all day, on and off, sensitive to the thought of him, the sight of his things, the sound of another dog’s bark, and of course, the gaping emptiness of where he used to be—where he slept, where he played, where he used to tread with those paws of his, the sound of his Harley Davidson collar jingling as he walked; a telltale sign that it was him and no other, making his way into the kitchen for a snack or a firm pat on the head.
Our tears aren’t wasted on sentimentality, but are tears that are filled with deep pain, loss, nostalgia, and love. Someone brilliant died today. Our handsome boy couldn’t stay because he was far too sick to stay any longer. He was someone so good in spirit that it hurts so much to think of him, as now gone.
We love you, Bronx. You’re such a good boy! Wait for us, over there… but in the meantime, before we arrive to be with you again, don’t feel bad to have a good time while you wait. Jesse and Starr will meet you at the Rainbow Bridge, and show you the ropes until you get settled in, and all our loved ones who have gone before us will be sure to give you even better treats than we could ever provide here while you were still with us.
But, you’ll always be our best friend, our champ—our boy—always.
And try not to worry about Mommy, Daddy, or even E. You made their lives, and our lives, so happy and filled with laughter and love that we all have a lifetime of memories to look back on and cherish because of you.
You did that, Boy! And for that, we’ll forever be grateful.
Besides, where you are now, there are no boundaries. The “living room” where you are, is spacious and no longer off-limits. You are free! Where you are, you can breathe just like you did when you were a brand new pup!
So you do that, Boy. Have a blast! Fetch that ball and wrestle that sock. We won’t hold it against you. Nope.
In fact, we want to hear about all the new adventures you will have once we’re reunited with you again.
So, let’s not say goodbye…not really.
Just a ‘Til next time…right, Boy?…
And if it’s alright with you, maybe we can share some of your leftover treats with Maki? She’s missing her kid brother, too. She was always a little possessive with her food, but I know she would give you her bowl if she could.
…’Til next time, then…
We love you, Bronx. Lots of love and slobbering kisses. Even though I’m allergic, I could never resist yours.
You’re the best dog and will always be our boy, forever! Be good (we all know you will) and keep an eye on Jesse and Starr for us. I’m sure they’re thrilled that you’re home.
And don’t worry about us.
Maki, Bizou, Parker, and Ranger, all send their love, and will do their best to fill the gap with loud barks and wagging tails, all in your honour.
After all, you’ll always be First in Show.