On November 29th, our friend, Bachi was laid to rest. He was a 13-year-old rat terrier mix.
Bachi was my wife’s dog. She adopted him when she was 21. The day she was told Bachi was available she braved a snowstorm to pick him up from the shelter. The way she tells it, she took Bachi because he was the first small dog available. When she got there he growled at her.
It was love at first sight.
Over the next nine years, Tessa would move from apartment to apartment with Bachi. He was a constant companion to her. I would finally meet up with them in July of 2011 and eventually, after not a lot of prodding, I asked her to move in with Wedge (my corgi) and me. So, one day in September we packed up my mini-van and drove the lot of them down. In addition to Tessa and Bachi, I also received Bones (the miniature pincher that loves to poop everywhere), and Elsie (the cat that can say hello).
This new family dynamic took me a while to get used to.
- The dogs now had a herd mentality and stopped listening to basic commands like – No, Stop, Don’t Eat That, Don’t Shit There, DUDE, NO STOP!
- Bachi and Bones decided that since the previous owner’s (my aunt) dog decided to use the house as a toilet that they would happily oblige as they must have felt grandfathered in.
- I spent around $10K in home improvements to replace carpeting, which was now inducing asthma and to install a new 6-foot fence to keep her little terrors from jumping into the neighbor’s yards.
- Elsie would kill mice and leave them in places for me to step on in the middle of the night. Sometimes she would leave them in the bathtub, half alive and cause Tessa to shriek in terror. Because of this, I have become a master of luring mice into small toilet paper tubes and letting them loose outside. I still have no way to get mouse guts out from between the toes. If you can think of a better solution then I am all ears.
- Did I mention the defecation?
Despite all of these issues and my new hatred of the colors yellow and brown, I learned to love them all. Especially Bachi, who I aptly called Cow Dog, Cow Puppy and Little Cow Cow.
In my early days with Bachi, I would let all of the dogs into the backyard in the morning to relieve themselves. During this time, I would get dressed and eventually try to herd them back into the house. On multiple occasions, Bachi would find an opening in the lattice under the deck and hide. This was his way of saying, “I do not like being left alone during the day so you should stay home and hang out with me. If you don’t like it then I’m going to make you late for work.”
And he did. Close to twenty times.
Eventually I screwed plastic Rubbermaid container covers over the damaged lattice to keep him out. As the weather continued to beat up other areas of the deck, he would smash his tiny head through other widening holes and wiggle his small dog body in.
He was such a resourceful little bastard.
One day, Bachi wouldn’t come out. I was already 20 minutes late for work when I shouted into the sky, “FINE! THEN YOU WILL STAY THERE AND HANG OUT WITH THE SQUIRELS!“ This was really a stupid threat because he loved to chase and bark at them.
At 2:00 PM, through a weird game of telephone, my neighbor called my mother and then my mother called me to advise me that a small black and white dog had jumped the fence and was sun bathing on their porch.
I raced home to retrieve him, however when I got there he was gone. In a panic I started to scream his name for five minutes straight. I tore up the entire backyard searching for him, lifting up wide leafed hostas and other accumulated foliage that I had obviously neglected due to my lack of a green thumb.
Eventually I heard a small bark in the distance.
I continued to shout his name and the barks grew louder. I ran over to the south side of the fence and saw him from a block away running toward me. I ran out to greet him and gave him the biggest hug in the world.
God, I was so angry with him and that much more angry with myself that I would think he would have stayed in the yard. Two weeks later the big fence was installed. Bachi won out and so did the United States economy.
Another time, Tessa was out at work on a Saturday. I was left to my own devices and decided that I would hang out in the basement and play computer games until my eyes decided to sting.
When I finally emerged from my techno dungeon, I found the wrappers of Godiva chocolates strewn about the house. When I finally found Bachi, he was tearing through another two dark chocolate candies in the bedroom.
Like any rational person I screamed at the top of my lungs, “OH MAH GOD YOU ARE GOING TO DIE AND TESSA IS GOING TO FUCKING KILL ME!”
I dialed Tessa to tell her what happened and I went into full panic mode.
“Okay listen. Everything is under control but you need to know that Bachi jumped on top of the kitchen table and tore open that box of Godiva chocolates and I think he might die but I will fix this. Okay. Hope you are having fun at work. Love you. Bye.”
I called my parents next and with the exact same level of calm I told them what I needed.
“MOM! You need to get me something quick! Bachi is dead in like 5 minutes if you don’t get me that shit that you drink and makes you puke. Also I need that cylinder with the plunger and numbers on it that you stick into stuff!”
There was silence at the other end, “What? Wait? Who? What is dead? Are you drunk?”
“JUST GET ME THE FUCKING PUKE DRINK!”
5 minutes later my parents arrived with a bottle of hydrogen peroxide.
My Dad says to me, “It’s alright. Calm down. Where is your syringe?”
“Syringe? That’s what I told mom to bring. The turkey baster thing with the numbers and shit on the side. MOM! Did you bring that fucking thing so we can fill it with the puke maker?”
My mother just sighed. “No, I did not bring that as you were not very descriptive on the phone. Calm down. I’ll be right back.”
5 minutes after that I was holding Bachi in my lap with my finger forcing his mouth open while my Dad shot hydrogen peroxide down his throat.
And because I deserved it, Bachi clamped down and sent his tooth through my thumbnail. I screamed in pain, put him on the ground and danced around the living room like a moron. 30 seconds later he puked up $10 worth of chocolate.
He could really be the life of the party.
Bachi’s tenacity for trouble was only equaled by his love for food. He would watch like a hawk for anything dropped to the floor. He was equal parts genius and scavenger. Of all the dogs I have met, I think he would have been ready for the apocalypse as he would have figured out how to survive.
This is where the story turns for the worst. About three weeks ago, Bachi developed a cough and started to wheeze. Tessa would take him in to the vet and they would initially diagnose it as potential bacterial or viral infection. It seemed legitimate, as it wasn’t much different than your standard doggie cough.
But it grew worse and an X-ray revealed some sort of blockage but a true diagnosis could not be provided unless she was ready to spend $3000 – $5000 on a test. The test would be able to determine what he really had, however if it was as the doctor’s had feared, then he would require surgery or if it was the worst case scenario (a collapsed bronchial tube) they wouldn’t be able to do much more for him.
As the weeks wore on, it became apparent that Bachi was not responding to the antibiotics. His breathing became more erratic and his love of food started to dissipate. Despite this, he would continue to greet you when you walked in the door, jump onto your knee and wag his tail in delight before humbly retiring to his doggie bed to cough and wheeze from exhaustion.
Bachi is Tessa’s child so I cannot imagine the pain she felt as she watched his health go to hell over a three-week span. Truthfully, I’m only his adopted Dad but I can say with certainty that it was a terrible thing to witness. Not just watching him wither away but also seeing the one you love become an emotional wreck.
On Thanksgiving morning, Tessa was to come over to eat diner with my family. She was delayed when Bachi had a seizure. After things were in the clear, she made her way over and we took him to my parent’s house for Thanksgiving lunch. We then packed up and drove up to Wisconsin to see her parents. The car ride up, Bachi laid down, occasionally picking up his head to see what was going on but it was a far cry from his usual game where he would look out the car window and bark at other cars, people and dogs the entire ride up.
The following morning Tessa could barely get him to eat his normal food let alone a sliver of hot dog or ham.
Saturday I did not see Tessa or Bachi but I had planned on visiting her that Sunday morning. When I got to her place I was greeted by Bones but not by Bachi who was laying down in his mess of doggie blankets. I walked over to him, his tail still wagging and could hear him uncomfortably breathing.
Tessa said he hadn’t eaten and that he barely touched his food yesterday. To our right, we could hear his faint but labored breaths.
A few hours later and after much deliberation, I made a call to the emergency vet and bawled as she spoke to me about options. Based on his decline in health the decision made itself.
That afternoon, we watched him go to a peaceful sleep.
Admittedly, of all the challenges I have ever faced, this was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. You think that you can be strong or act as some pillar of moral support for your friend and your wife but it doesn’t work because you have been affected by this little fragile creature in a number of miraculous ways.
In that instance you realize these incredibly basic lessons about love, anger, fear and patience were learned because of the unconditional love of a friend. You find out just how much your life has actually been enriched and how much of your pessimistic soul has been turned by this little sixteen-pound, four legged pal.
It’s gut wrenching. It is terrible.
And all you can do is watch and pray that you did the right thing.
I have always believed that the reason a dog’s life is so short compared to a humans is to impart certain elements of wisdom. That we shouldn’t take life for granted – our own or others. That companionship comes in many forms and that sometimes the most important things are right in front of our faces. We forget those basic things in our daily scramble to climb a progressive ladder toward personal fulfillment. A dog doesn’t give a fig about any of that. A dog just wants your time, a tummy rub and maybe a small piece of steak when no one else is looking.
At an early age I attended a lot of wakes and funerals. I come from a large Chinese family and if I had to peg it, my first one was when I was four or five years old. It’s a funny thing, of all the friends and family members to walk through my life, I cannot remember a death being this hard to stomach. My neighbor told my parents that putting his dog to sleep was harder than watching a family member pass away. After witnessing this, I have to agree with him.
The only thing worse than witnessing death is being forced to make that judgment call. I know my wife feels the same way.
A few years back, when I first adopted Wedge, I came across two things that made me understand the kinship between dogs and humans. The first was an episode of Futurama where the main character, Fry (who had accidentally been placed in a cryogenic state in the 90’s) has a chance to be reunited with his dog from the past. In a series of flashbacks you learn that the dog searched high and low for his master and eventually waited out his life waiting for him in front of the store he worked at. I think I cried for half an hour and hugged my dog the entire time.
The second was a poem that Jimmy Stewart read on The Tonight Show to Johnny Carson. He muses about his dog being a hellion but concludes with a beautiful section on how we form a deep symbiotic relationship with our pets and just how empty we feel without them.
Despite all of the pain, I will affirm that there are some things in this world that are really worth getting your heart broken for. Bachi was one of those and he ultimately made me a better person for it. You adopt a dog to act as a companion and to possible save him or her from being trapped at a shelter. During that entire process, you might possibly learn that the dog is the thing that saves you.
From the bottom of Tessa’s heart and mine, we will love you always, Bachi.
I’ll miss you my little cow spotted friend.