Monday, January 3, 2011


Mystic Whirlwind of Dunewood
12/16/98 - 9/01/10

     As 2010 is now behind us and we all prepare for a new year with new hopes and dreams, I want to start 2011 by writing a tribute to a very special dog, my dear Bentley.  While he crossed the Rainbow Bridge back in September it is only now that I find the strength to put into written words the depth of my loss and to openly celebrate his life and honor his memory. 

      The words from the song "My Heart Will Go On" often come to mind these days.  Although Bentley has certainly taken a piece of my heart with him he has also left amazing memories that I can draw on and know that he is here in my heart and "my heart will go on and on" even when his absence seems unbearable.   Bentley is number eight of the dogs we've had over the years that have since crossed the Bridge and he is survived by a half-nephew, Griffin.  

Bentley and Caitlin
Caity's look says it all - what a muddy imp!
      From the day he picked us to be his dog parents there was an immediate bond that grew stronger and stronger over the years.    His antics with his littermates showed that he was likely to be quite a character and would provide many years of fun and laughter and indeed, that was the case.  Upon returning a week later to bring him home we entered the breeder's home to find him repeatedly running a circle through the house, making a grab for a kitchen towel and continuing on his merry way.  From that day on he enjoyed life to the fullest.

     We offered him an active lifestyle which included lots of romps in the woods and the beach, walks around town, travels, and doggie play dates and he was always an English gentleman with everyone (well, almost everyone :-) he encountered.  That included our other dog at the time, Caitlin, who wanted NOTHING to do with the little pest.  She snarled and postured and intimidated until he yielded and quietly went off on his own.  Caity did eventually tolerate his presence and he eventually learned that she just wasn't going to play with him. 

Yes, he's actually painting.
       A quick learner, he was my first dog to be clicker trained as a young puppy.  Bentley, aka Mr. B, excelled in training so there was no doubt that he would be helping me teach training classes.  Another of my dogs, Duncan, held that job previously for many years and Bentley had big paws to fill.  He did not let me down and was a wonderful ambassador for me and for clicker training.  Training looked easy to my students when they watched Bentley work which made them want to get started clicker training right away.   He learned many behaviors in addition to the basics because I had so much fun teaching and he had so much fun learning new things: back up, spin, circle, stretch (bow), say hi, speak, drop, table (get onto something), clean up (pick up toys), paint, and a few we were working on but never finished.  The training process helped create a bond and a perceptiveness between us that can't be put into words. 

    Mr. B had many doggie playmates over the years and they were all important to him.  One in particular, Cassidy, was his very special friend as a youngster.  They spent many happy times together playing and exploring the woods and streams but even just "hanging out" was special for them both. 

Cassidy was kind enough to invite Mr. B for an overnight visit while we picked up his new brother - Griffin.  After Caitlin crossed the bridge Bentley was an "only child" for about 7 months.  Well, he was quite content with that arrangement and was not quite sure he wanted to share mom and dad with the new kid.  To be sure, Griffin was quite the little pest with an attitude to match.

Griffin pestered, pounced, and offered play bows making every effort to elicit play from Bentley, to no avail.  Apparently, Mr. B learned well from Caitlin and wanted NOTHING to do with the bothersome little rescal!  However, in typical Bentley fashion, he handled Griffin in a much more gentlemanly way.  He tolerated his antics until he could tolerate him no more and just got up and walked away.  As you can see from the photo Griffin adored Bentley and would often seek him out for some cuddle time.  Griffin was successful in cajoling Bentley into play from time to time and wherever Bentley was, Griffin was not far behind as he followed B everywhere.  As I started Griffin with training it was an interesting process.  Since Bentley loved training, he wanted to be present during Griffin's sessions.  That was fine with Griffin because, as it turned out, Bentley was quite the teacher without even realizing it.  If Griffin was puzzled as to what I expected, I quickly noticed that he would look at Mr. B and whatever behavior he was offering Griffin followed suit.  This certainly worked to my advantage as it helped speed the process along.  From then on whenever Griffin was in doubt as to what to do he would often look to Bentley for direction.  The closeness Griffin felt for Bentley made it very difficult for him when B crossed the Bridge.  He experienced an obvious sense of loss and it's certainly a time like this when you wish you really could talk to the animals.

    I won't go into the last months of his life as there were many highs and lows as we tried to diagnose his illness.  We celebrated successes and agonized over uncertainties and in the end were unable to help him.

   In tribute to Bentley and to help me through the grieving process, I held a memorial walk in late September to honor him and all those who have crossed the Rainbow Bridge before him and to celebrate all of their lives.   The walk was very meaningful, very peaceful, and very emotional.  There were lots of hugs and of course lots of tears shed.  We ended up at an ice cream shop since it was one of Bentley's favorite passions.  Friends and former students attended and they've encouraged me to make this an annual event.  The evening was warm but overcast.  As the walk finished and we were saying our goodbyes, the clouds parted slightly and the full moon appeared.  Prior to the walk I had read a poem called "I'm Still Here" and the last part said: " I'm the first ray of light when the sun starts to shine, and you'll see that the face in the moon is mine."  So it was a timely appearance when Bentley showed his face that night.
     The holidays this year were of course quite different and not so much fun.  You see, Bentley loved Christmas, loved opening presents, loved the special cookies that I made and as you can see from the video, always made us laugh.  This year Griffin was not quite sure what to do with the presents without Mr. B to quide him.  Thankfully I have these videos and photos to remind me how much he enjoyed life.

  All of my previous dogs were special and I've had a wonderful experience and connection with and love for all of them but Mr. B has left the biggest pawprints on my heart.  I am blessed to have had him in my life and he has forever changed me in many ways.  I'm thankful that he was able to touch the lives of so many people and dogs and be such a wonderful canine ambassador.  Near, far, wherever you are, I believe that the heart does go on and on.   God speed Bentley!
Please go hug your fur kids!!