Beau came into our lives in January 2000, just five days after our beloved golden retriever passed away. I thought it was too soon to replace Barkley, but the opportunity came up to get a 9-week-old blond Lab, and we jumped on it.
We should have known by his enthusiasm that we were going to have our hands full, but we were still grieving our loss and we accepted Beau as he was: an energetic puppy. By energetic I mean at 2 a.m. he would be tossing the cushion of a discarded love seat up and down the driveway. Or digging holes in the yard for hours on end. At 2 months old he was strong and willful. He knew what he wanted and it was his way most of the time, regrettably for the neighbors.
But he was great, too, in that in his willingness to own everything, he would help me bring in the horses at night, holding onto one of the lead ropes while I held the other. All I had to say was, "Get Dude out of there," and Beau would be in his glory, doing what he loved best: taking charge.
By 2, he was in charge of the cats, and they knew it; if they started to sharpen their claws on furniture and Beau would hear it — even in a sound sleep — he would move toward them and they would listen. To this day, they still look around to see if he's near before they begin their task of claw-sharpening or even just moving through a room.
And he was funny, too. Beau had more facial expressions than any other pet I've ever had. His eyes were readable and his constant moaning was hysterical. To us, anyway. To him he was trying to tell us he had his own personal demons. Beau was born with a disorder. He was born with a tormented mind that was his demise recently. Diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder three years ago, Beau didn't know when it was time to quit. If you asked him where the lizards were, he'd stand vigil for eight hours at a time, waiting for a lizard to appear.
However, over the years, his demons got the better of him. Our back property looks like a bomb test site. He'd dug several 8-foot tunnels throughout that area; he would dig until his paws bled. Bringing him out of his obsessive digging before the tunnels caved in on him also required an attempt on our part not to get bitten in his aggressive state of mind. And once he was brought into the house, he would hide in his closet as paranoia began to be his master.
Seeking professional help, we were told it's a common affliction of Labs to become OCD, and for the past three years, we've tried puppy Xanax, tranquilizers in pill form and lots of love. His demons, however, won over, and we were faced with that never-popular decision of helping him out of his misery.
He is now at peace, and his mind is at rest — not to mention his paws. The guilt we felt was unfathomable; it was the worst thing we'd ever done. If we ate the first three days after, we never tasted; sleep was difficult and the drapes weren't open at all. We cried, took turns comforting each other and spent our own times at his graveside, apologizing for what we'd done.
By week's end, we'd noticed a lot of changes around here; the cats no longer looked over their shoulders or spent their days in hiding. Our other dogs became closer to us.
The other night, both dogs and three cats slept with us all night, something that hasn't occurred for years because Beau so dominated the house the other critters just stayed at a distance.
The guilt has lessened and we can open the drapes and feel the sunshine without grieving too much.
To Beau, may you live on forever in puppy heaven, digging holes obsessively and waiting for lizards.
Darcy Maness lives in Leisure Hills.