What fun puppies they were! Loaded with personality and with such individual characteristics that we were able to combine the two litters by the time they were weaned and still know who belonged to which mother. The best time of the day was after work when the pups would be fed, then let outside to play in the late spring/early summer evenings. David would entice the puppies to run after him in the field and I can still see the pack of fuzz balls, running with all their might on their little legs! Afterwards, they would be too tired to walk all the way back to the house so we would carry them in, two and three at a time in our arms, their heads bobbing as they fell asleep.
I spent a lot of time those days just watching the puppies play and explore. One little guy kept catching my eye. I sat on the slope of the yard one evening to watch the pups in the yard below. The little mahogany puppy saw me, walked up the hill, then walked up my outstretched legs until he got onto my lap. He placed his head against my chest and sighed... and so started my great bond with Ben.
We registered him as Hillcroft Ablaze. His show and stud career did not pan out as we had hoped. Ben earned 8 points towards his championship and sired one litter. After he stopped showing, I taught Ben how to pull a wagon and he participated in parades with the library staff. He was always game to wear any costume we came up with!
We also had an opportunity to spend two weeks with the Outreach staff to do a program in the nursing and retirement homes. Ben would pull his wagon, loaded with books, into the community room, then I would do a short talk about Ben and he would do his one trick--sit and "wave". After the program, I would walk him to each resident who wanted to pet and visit with him. Riding in the van after the visits, Ben would lay across my feet, so tired but still ready and willing to do another program. I was so proud of my gentle boy and glad we got to share such special experiences!
By the time Ben was 11, his muzzle had gone gray and he was slowing down. He was showing signs of arthritis and his days of wagon pulling were long over. He and his sister, Sophie, have been house dogs the last year, going outside on mild days to snooze in the sunshine--their favorite pastime. But, even the walk from the house to the kennel was sometimes difficult for Ben. I finally had to face what path we were on.
Ben was put down this past Monday, January 23. He had lost ten pounds in the last 9 months, the arthritis was getting severe and his mind was going. Sometimes, I wondered if he even knew who I was. That was the most painful thing for me. From the time he walked up my legs as a puppy, Ben would always watch me, wanting to sit close to me, often laying a foot on mine. Whenever we reunited after being separated because of shows or such, he would jump up against me, lay his head on my chest and sigh--just like when he was a baby. People always commented on how Ben only had eyes for me. As the medicine took effect Monday night, I looked deep into Ben's eyes. For just a second, I saw a flicker of recognition, then he closed his eyes and relaxed. I put my head against his and held him, my special puppy.
|Ben as a puppy|
|Ben and his best buddy, his sister, Sophie|
|The first point I put on a dog was with Ben. What a thrill!!!|
|Ben in one of his last shows--he won, of course!|
|Visiting a resident at one of the Outreach programs.|
|"Waving" for an Irish coffee!|
|Almost 11 years old during the blizzard of 2010 and still enjoyed a romp in the snow!|