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October 7th, 2019 - 04:03 PM
Bitty was undeniably the “best worst” dog I have ever had the honor of living with.
As a twenty-year-old, just-married military wife living right off the base of Fort Gordon in Georgia, I was desperate for a dog as I was never allowed to have one before. They were my one true obsession. All my jobs previously had been working with animals, especially dogs.
I got Bitty as an eight-week-old butterball of a Boston Terrier puppy from a pet store. I know, I know. Before I get chastised for supporting the horrors of puppy mills, let me explain. I’m not proud of it now. It was before the age of the “find anything you want on Google” internet. No animal shelter would give me the time of day due to my age and the all-too-real chance of uprooting everything and leaving my pets behind due to military life. They’d seen it happen too many times. They would never believe me when I explained I wasn’t the same. I’m sure the others felt the same way, too. Said the same thing. Nobody ever truly wants to leave a beloved pet behind, I really want to believe.
I digress. “What does this have to do with art?” you may be wondering.
Everything. It has everything to do with it.
Despite coming from a puppy mill, she had the best disposition and attitude of any dog I’ve ever known. She could be guaranteed to be one hundred percent predictable and friendly with the smallest child or most obnoxious puppy. Her first encounter with someone in a motorized wheel chair did not effect her. She willingly climbed in the man’s lap for hugs and kisses as he cried for his Boston Terrier that recently died.
Over the years, Bitty moved everywhere with me - every city, every apartment, every house. She helped raise my son and went through my first divorce with me, unwaveringly cheerful even as I was not. She was by my side on every walk, sometimes not so happily in the summer as her smushed face didn’t allow for great breathing. She enjoyed meeting people and kept me pulled out of my antisocial shell of anger and despair. She learned every cute trick quickly and was thrilled to put on a show for anyone that would watch. She knew she was amazing.
Her greatest accomplishment was learning how to spread her front legs wide, walk very stiffly and slowly, and hold her breath to keep her tags from jingling (she snorted with every breath, otherwise) when she wanted to sneak off to find trouble. She was always, always looking for trouble when she thought we weren’t looking at her, and she always knew to go find it when we were distracted. I lost many bowls of cat food to her self-taught sneaky walk.
Throughout it all, she was my most willing art subject, patiently sitting still as stone as I painted her nails or strutting proudly in one of her many costumes. Wearing hats and clothes was such a normal thing for her, unlike any other dog I’ve had. She took to it like it was the fur growing from her own little body.
The photo accompanying the blog happened on her thirteenth birthday as she sat on a stool and allowed me to pose her and photograph her at many different angles and styles. Her expressions were “icing on the cake” because she never failed to have a shocked look on her face due to her buggy eyes. Despite the expressions, she loved every minute of being my muse.
Bitty died earlier this year at the age of fourteen from a long fight with heart failure. It was time. I held her at the vet’s office and cried as they sent her peacefully into her everlasting slumber.
So now as I look back, I see what a treasure of a dog I had. Bitty inspired so many photos and pieces of art for me, even if she’s not in them. I adore the dogs I have now, but they do not inspire me in the same manner. Every day I want for her patience, joy, and unwavering friendliness to all. She was my first true dog love, and the one that taught me patience and happiness was everything in life.
Have you had an animal in your life that was like no other?