I already had Ringo, who was anti-social. Plus, I was already single, bald, broke and 30 — add multiple dogs to the mix and I might as well move back in with my momma, play Dungeons, listen to Rush and start collecting “Uncanny X-men” comics again for all the dates I was going to go on.
That’s what I told the woman at the Calhoun County Humane Society when she offered to give me a tour of the place. I was there for a story, to promote adoptions … adoptions by people other than me.
But I agreed to take a tour anyway. I didn’t make eye contact as we walked in the back area. These were the dogs waiting for space to open up. These were the dogs down to their last chance.
But still I wasn’t going to look.
“This is Chester,” the woman said. I looked. I made eye contact and from that moment I knew I was in trouble. They thought Chester was part bassett hound/part pit bull. He was the strangest looking dog I’d ever seen. Tough looking as a Tonka truck with a head the size of a bowling ball, Chester was intimidating.
“Wanna play with him?”
I was led outside to a large fenced-in area while Chester was fitted with a leash and escorted to the opposite end.
“Now, he might be a little excited,” someone said. “But he’s very friendly.”
At that moment the volunteer let Chester go and he tore off straight for me — teeth bared in a maniacal grin. I felt like bait for an attack dog, only someone had forgotten the puffy suit.
I would’ve jumped the fence but there was no time. Chester was kicking up dirt. I just hoped someone had a cooler so the doctors could reattach my face and whatever else he chewed off.
But instead of jumping up and chomping down, Chester slid onto his back the last few feet and laid there with that same grin plastered across his face waiting for me to scratch his belly.
“I’ll take him.”
Chester became Bonham, named after the Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham. It wasn’t until I was leaving the shelter that I found out his time was up. He would’ve been put to sleep within a week.
I saved his life, and he brought joy and weirdness to mine. That was eight years ago. But Bonham’s time finally ran out last week.
My Lovely Wife found him in his bed, looking out the big bay window to the front yard. He could’ve been sleeping. We don’t know exactly what took him. That’s just the way it goes sometimes.
We were all in tears. Of the three dogs, Bonham was the one everyone liked. He never barked, was always happy and save for his “shelter dreams” that made him act a little more needy at times and gave him an unnatural fear of vacuum cleaners, Bonham was the perfect dog. He was thankful — that was how we always thought of it.
I buried him in the backyard beside a blooming oakleaf hydrangea along with a baby blanket and his favorite AFLAC duck that still quacked. I surrounded the grave with bricks we brought from our house in Jacksonville.
I couldn’t help but think that this was the reason we had a garden. It’s a place of peaceful beauty, a place to remember. I’ll always remember Bonham as the dog I didn’t want but was so thankful to have.
He doesn’t have a headstone, but if he did, it would read: “Bonham – He was a good dog.”
Contact Brett Buckner at firstname.lastname@example.org.