Not Exactly Love at First Sight
by Mary Ann
My friend, who has taken in every cat dropped off at our close-to-the-road barn, found a Basset as she was traveling after picking strawberries. She took it from house to house on the road she was on. Nobody recognized it and even the mail man had never seen it. It was getting dark, so she brought the five month old pup home.
She placed an ad in the paper describing where she was found and then waited. Three weeks later she called me up and said "I've taken every cat dropped at your place - now come get this dog!"
Our bloodhound had just died a few months ago and I wasn't sure I wanted to risk that kind of pain again. But it was only fair. I got to her house and here sat this pup. My first thought was that God had made her out of all the parts left over after making all the other dogs.
I gated her in the kitchen and went to the living room, still not sure. Then my husband came home "Where did you find that nice pup?" Later my daughter came home, "Oh, what a cute puppy! Has Riley seen it?" Just then, Riley, my grandson who was living with his mom at our house burst into the kitchen. "A puppy!!!" He promptly named her Bernice - where that came from we never knew.
Riley and Bernice became fast friends. Riley had just learned to ride a dirt bike, and he and Bernice went round and round and round the barn, Bernice barking happily beside him. I was content to let Bernice be his pal.
About two weeks after she arrived she started to have blood in her stool and to vomit. I rushed her to the vet and it turned out she had one of the diseases that shots were meant to prevent. Evidently she'd never gotten her shots, even though she was about 5 months old, according to the vet. After $700 and touch and go at the vets, she recovered. God bless the vet, he spent two nights in his clinic to be near her.
After that, she came home and it was like she was so grateful to be alive that she loved everybody and bonded very tightly to me. I still thought she was funny looking, but her sheer joy in welcoming anyone who came into the house just endeared her to us.
My grandson had to move away with mom, and Bernice seemed desolate, when neighbors with twelve children moved in across the street. This meant I had to nag my husband to finally put a fence around the yard, because Bernice was bent on going to see the kids! We built the fence and invited the kids over to play with Bernice. It wasn't long that more grandchildren came along and she became the official babysitter. Every child was allowed to lay on her, pull her ears, use her to pull themselves up on, until they were really ready to play.
Years later, we started receiving a school bus full of kids from a charter school who taught science, history, and math using the farm for all kinds of outdoor learning. Bernice would greet the bus and welcome each child. Then she would lead the group on their field walks out to the back 30 acres, baying all the way!
Bernice was our mainstay as each of our children grew and left home. After 9 years, Bernice just passed away from a stroke. It was sudden and has left us devastated. We are anxious for our next paycheck, though, because we know we want another Basset. I can't live without that friendship, loyalty and joy that she brought to our lives. Bernice is buried in honor under our grape arbor, with a beautiful pink granite rock over her grave. She will fertilize our grapes, and I will remember her always!