Dear Boumie (2009–2022)
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Dear Boumie (2009-2022)
In memory of our Keeshond, Boumie (BOOM-ee) Where do I begin? Put on Nick Drake. Set your old blue harness and leash up…
Where do I begin? Put on Nick Drake. Set your old blue harness and leash up here on the wall in the garage. Let it all come out.
October, 2009. We had been waiting for you for almost two years. There aren’t many Keeshond breeders. Most people don’t know about your kind. The Smiling Dutchman. Swirls of gray and black fur billowing out from a medium-sized, compact body with four furry gray paws, legs collecting and bringing nature into our home. We drove you home with Uncle Mark in the old silver Civic. The World Series was on the radio. It was a hot October afternoon. Driving back from Yuba City, nearly two hours from our apartment in San Francisco. Floating back home.
We needed you. We thought we understood how much, but how could we have? We read that you’d be friendly, outgoing, lively and empathetic. An ideal family dog with black “spectacles” framing your foxy smiling face with an alert gaze, with a long pink tongue.
Boumie — you opened up my heart. That’s the simplest way to say it. You enabled us to grow into a family. We were on the edge of 30. My teaching career was a patchwork of short-term substituting and tutoring. The depressive cloud that hovered above me through phases of teenage years and my college stumbling was still hovering there in my late 20s. It was lighter than it had been. You kept lightening the weight of this world.
Love is a strange thing. It flows between two creatures, steadily for twelve years and eight months. It starts as an overwhelming, all-encompassing emotion, a roaring river. Then it settles into a calming stream. Over time, the love I felt around you gave way. My heart opened and took in more love.
We brought your sister JoJo home. You were curious, but her rambunctious energy didn’t always match your gentle spirit. You looked at us with a tilt to your head, as if to ask, “How long is she staying?” You learned to love her fiery spirit. Watching the two of you sleep next to each other filled us up and settled our evenings. The rhythms of each day. Our family grew. She followed you around and you were a kind big brother — who loved messing around with your fur sister, too.
In June, 2014, we moved across the Bay to this house. You finally had a backyard to enjoy. The birds didn’t bother you. You paid the squirrels no mind. The breeze and the sun were all you needed. Some shade when the sun was too much. We found new grasses and fields and trails. We walked and walked. About 700 walks each year. Twelve years and eight months. I’ll say 8,869 walks, give or take a few. We walked through the rainy winter and the driest summer days. We had two leashes and a steady rhythm. We listened to the music of the breeze and romped on the lush green outfield of the baseball field. Off leash, you two became sniffing investigators of the land, verdant explorers. You found the shade.
Then we brought your baby sister home in June, 2017. Life changes. But there was no explaining it to you and JoJo. I was at home with Rebelle Harmony for those first two years. Mama went to work. I worked at night. You and JoJo came over to soothe her when she cried. You always enjoyed Erik Satie, the Debussy and Zoe Keating. The walks became fewer. Sometimes only in the afternoon or evening. Then you joined us with the black stroller and the little girl whose feet dangled out of the front. You were slowing down, the front shoulder tweak from your youth was more pronounced. The stroller matched your pace.
Love changes. It floats up into the clear blue mornings. Into the ink of night. Into the panoramic views from these hills. Into the ache in my heart and the lump that won’t leave my throat as I type these words. This ache tells me how deep the love is.
These last couple of years were difficult. You loved having us home. You loved being with us. Your kidneys stopped working so well. You didn’t enjoy the pills, even when we hid them in pumpkin puree or peanut butter. You were in pain. You became hesitant with the back porch steps. With Rebelle Harmony in preschool, our routine morning walks resumed. Every time I returned from dropping her off, you’d bark in anticipation, setting JoJo off too. Tail wagging. “Let’s go for a walkie-talkie. Biscuit walky round the blocky.” Even with limitations, your spirit was always willing.
In this last month, you became bewildered and unsure. For the first time in your life, you stopped eating your food. A week ago, on Sunday afternoon, you weren’t sure what to do. Where to go, where to rest. You were trying to tell us. With some help, you laid down in the grass while we played in the backyard.
On the chilly Friday morning, you stayed in the grass. When I came out to bring you in, your fur was cold, but you struggled up and came in, making it up the steps by yourself, despite it all. You didn’t want to come back in. We learned of your internal bleeding and the likely cancer that had weakened your body. It was time. But how can it ever be time? The river of love came pouring out of me. I put my head to yours. Mama put her head to yours. We told you we loved you. I thanked you. Over and over again. I felt deep guilt for how life had taken me away from time with you. How the needs of Rebelle Harmony and work and life in all its busy forms…kept me from lying down next to you. I had to release that guilt. You loved us for all that we could give. I thanked you for opening me up. For showing me how to get out of my head and into my body. For bringing me out onto the trails. Onto the sand. Into the soft grass. Among the tall trees. The views from the edge of the cliff. Where the Pacific meets the Bay.
Now we honor your memory and your love. We notice you everywhere. I break down when I take JoJo’s leash and start a new routine, one dog instead of two. Rebelle Harmony says “We were five in our family, but now we are four.” I look up at your leash here in the garage. At the end of the night, your spot at the bottom of the stairs is empty. I think of you as I walk up the stairs.
Driving home yesterday, we listened to the radio — pop music from the ’80s. “Don’t You Forget About Me,” by Simple Minds. I won’t and I can’t. You’re always here with us, Boumie. “I Would Walk (500 miles)” by the Proclaimers. We walked 500 miles. And we’ll walk 500 more.
Nick Drake “Northern Sky”
We’re lucky to be with dogs.
Sending Boumie’s love out to you all.