Friday, August 17, 2012


Beau posing for the camera a few weeks after he arrived in 2007

I thought I was too old to have my heart broken, but on July 9th, 2012 Beau, my little French Bulldog, died in my lap. I've already written to friends, posted the news on Facebook, so I won't detail the events that led me to make the decision to put Beau down.  I want this to be a celebration of a remarkable companion.

Beau was remarkable. I adopted him at the age of four from a breeder in Connecticut. I found him on a website while I was searching around for a French Bulldog puppy. I saw this beautiful brindled Frenchie with expressive eyes, a Winston Churchill countenance, with Yoda ears. I wondered what his story was.  The woman I talked to said Beau came from a breeder in Oklahoma and she acquired him as a "back-up" stud dog. Frenchie females have a difficult time conceiving, and most have to be either helped or artificially inseminated. Beau had proven to be a disappointment as a stud, and because she had too many dogs, she had come to the difficult conclusion that he would be adopted out. She told me Beau had one of the sweetest temperaments she had ever encountered in the breed, and would be very sorry to see him go. How could I fail to not swallow that story hook, line and sinker. I immediately told her I wanted him. We agreed that he should be neutered by her local vet and I could pick him up in two weeks.

My friend, Joan, was in town and when I told her about Beau, she immediately volunteered to drive me up from New York City to collect him.  I hadn't had a dog since my early teens, and I soon realized I was hardly equipped or had sufficient knowledge of dogs in general to take such a step.  I had always wanted a dog, but I worked full time and hated the idea of abandoning a dog to an empty apartment while I went off to work.  By 2007 I had moved my consulting business to my apartment, and had the time to devote to a dog.

Joan, Beau's godmother, and her daughter Lily in New York, where Lily is first introduced to Beau.

We drove up to Connecticut on a hot morning in early June, which coincided with Beau's fourth birthday. Because he had stitches and lived in a kennel, Beau was a stinky, unpresentable mess when we first met, but the breeder brought him to me, and I knelt down to meet him eye-to-eye. Beau came over to me immediately and licked my face. Though my nose wrinkled in disgust at the smell of him, I fell in love immediately.  Joan had a old quilt throw and with Beau wrapped up and on my lap, we drove to Greenwich, where Joan dropped me off at the train station for final leg of the journey to Manhattan. I had no idea you couldn't bring a dog on a train, and thank God, the conductor didn't protest.

We arrived at Grand Central Station and Beau was immediately plunged into the bewildering world of non-stop motion. We waited in the wilting heat for a taxi, and some drivers refused to allow us a ride. I finally got Beau home, and in the cool confines of my apartment. It was time for water and his first feeding, which went smoothly. The next step was his first walk in the big city.  Out on the street, we headed for the dog-run in Union Square Park, one block away.  About one third of the way down, Beau began to pant. Frenchies are very much affected by hot weather and it was beastly hot that day. I was alarmed at the effort it took for him to breath, and picked up him and carried him the rest of the way. A twenty-one-and-a-half-pound Frenchie is all muscle and dead weight. I was sweating profusely by the time we got into the dog run. Once safely behind the gate, I took off Beau's leash and looked for a shady place to cool off.  Beau sat down in the middle of the run, and stared in the distance as dogs whizzed passed him, chasing balls, Frisbees, and each other. In the middle of that canine maelstrom, Beau serenely contemplated his place in the world, Suddenly people came over to me and started to comment on "that amazingly calm little dog." Beau quietly ignored the dogs surrounding him, remaining aloof to others who ventured close enough to give him a good sniff. Eventually, he walked over to the side to do his business. He walked over to me, as if to announce it was time to go. This time he walked back on his leash.

Beau meets with Joan's young daughter, Lily. They got along famously.

Karole always commented on what an exemplary gentleman Beau was.

On Dyanne's terrace trying to cool off on a hot summer's night. 

Dyanne and Beau were pals who shared a special bond. 

Beau's animal rug imitation. 

Beau could be serious...

Or silly.

I told everyone rather grandly that I wasn't going to allow my dog to sleep in my bed. That lasted as long as four days when Beau was introduced to his new vet who removed the stitches from his operation. I took him home and put him into the kitchen sink to bath him. It did not go to well. Beau didn't want to be shampooed and fidgeted, making numerous attempts to escape. He was strong and stubborn and resisted. I finally got him rinsed off and into a towel, making a mental note that in the future, he would be groomed professionally. I didn't have the patience for it.

Until surgery corrected the problem, Beau suffered from a cyst in his paw, 
requiring daily soaks in Epsom salts. He would get bored and sit down. One my
 my favorite of his many photos. 

Once he was clean, I couldn't ignore the fact that Beau would wake me up, put his paws on the edge of the bed frame and stare at me in the dark as he had the previous nights. With no excuses left, I pulled him up in bed with me. He did a few circles, pawed the blanket into some semblance of a nest, and plopped down, arranging his entire length against the side of my back. It would be his preferred method of sleeping for the next five years.

Beau, subjected to the kiddie swing in the park across the street from my Portland home. 
He was always a patient,  good sport.

I thought Beau would be a jaunty little guy, walking me everywhere. I reasoned he would be good exercise.  That didn't turn out as I envisioned it. Beau was a start and stop kind of fellow. He loved to sniff everything, constantly alert for anything he could eat. And if he couldn't eat it, he loved to pee on it. My heart rate never accelerated walking Beau. When he dove for something tidbit on the street to consume, I learned to drive my hand into his mouth and down his throat to retrieve it.  He was very particular about where he would do his business and the first three weeks were hell as I waited patiently for him to make up his mind.

Laurele didn't love having her photo taken, and I usually contrived to get her with hiding behind something, resulting in a series of lovely photos. This time, she used Beau, and they are adorable together.

Most of the time, Beau was the center attraction wherever we ventured. My friends took to his charms easily. Karole, Laurele, Carl, Jeannie, Alison, James, Joe, Wilma, Trisha, Dyanne, Joyce--it didn't matter. Beau was invited into all my friend's homes, praised for his manners and utter adorability. It was frustrating owning a dog in New York. You could never eat, even in an outdoor cafe, where dogs were required to be leashed on the outer side of a fence. Of course, this never worked, and one would have to spend their entire time trying to keep the dog from jumping the barrier to get to you.  Cabs often refused to pick us up, rudely driving past, the minute they saw a dog. Dogs are not allowed on subways or buses in New York City, so you had to plan carefully.

Beau hated jackets or sweaters in the winter. Maryann bought him this very nice coat for Christmas. We put it on and the result was one miserable looking dog.

Clothing was not for him. Beau preferred to go naked even when the temperature outside was below freezing!

Like most Frenchies, Beau hated the water, though he liked to come with me on a motor boat on a large 
body of water. He just didn't like the life-preserver that went with the journey.

We settled into a nice routine.  When people came to the apartment, I would wait until their elevator arrived on my floor, then open the door. Beau would come flying down the hallway to greet the arriving goes, which always charmed them. My friend Trish actually believed I only did this trick with Beau for her benefit.

Marcos, my favorite doorman was besotted by Beau and the two of them got along famously. He would lift Beau up, and scratch his chest and talk nonsense to Beau while he gave him a massage. Beau would aways smile. Marcos was his pal. Monroe, one of the retired co-op owners in the building frequently sat in the lobby to talk with friends, always had a treat for Beau.  He was one of the first Frenchies in the building, but not for long. The breed became very popular. For the next two years, we settled into a pleasing routine, meeting new friends at the dog run each morning. The local hairdresser always enjoyed giving Beau a pat. He new most of the dogs and their owners in the neighborhood. He was a regular visitor to the Union Square farmers market on Wednesday, Fridays and Saturdays, and enjoyed the sea of humanity pouring into the area on shopping days. We took long walks then--to Washington Square, or up to Madison Park on 23rd Street.  Beau knew many of the shop owners in the area, and the Chase branch at 14th & Fifth was always a good place for doggie treat.

Marcos kept treats for Beau in his bag.

They were pals and Marcos could always get Beau to play--something he never did with me.

As news began to gather momentum about the coming financial meltdown, I decided the time had come to leave New York. After nearly four decades, I wanted space, a more relaxed life-style, and a backyard for my dog. I began to formulate a plan for selling my apartment and moving to Portland, Oregon. I was sure Beau would like the change. No more freezing mornings, and steaming hot summers, which made breathing difficult. The day the apartment was listed, The New York Times announced the worst financial downturn since the Great Depression. It would take eight months and a great reduction on the selling price, but in April, 2009, I got an offer I thought I could live with and made the rest of my moving plans.

My friend Kent, decided to use Beau as a chick magnet to resuscitate his love-life 
following his divorce. Beau didn't mind posing, as long as it wasn't too strenuous.
Beau automatically drew strangers. Women thought he was adorable and men thought
thought he was a little toughie (so not true).

It is not easy transporting a dog via plane. The restrictions are really tough. Most airlines will not allow a Frenchie, a Pug, a Boxer, or any other dog with a squished-in nose to fly in the luggage area and certainly not in the summer. Beau was now 23 pounds. The limit to bring him into the cabin was 20 pounds and a signed note about Beau's health by a vet was required. I was told by friends that the airlines didn't weigh the dogs. Beau was also a little short for a Frenchie. I found a soft carrier, and on June 26th, having said goodbye to all of my friends, Beau and I made it to the airport. I kept him out of the carrier until we were in line. To my relief, Beau didn't put up a struggle. We got through check-in and security and were off to the gate. On-board, Beau fit right under the seat in front of me. Still I was was worried how he would handle the small confines of the carrier. Dogs are not allowed in laps or out of their carriers in-cabin. I did not drug Beau, but he was calm and behaved beautifully. I would put my hand in the carrier every so often and would be rewarded with a lick. I managed to give him a few treats to ward off hunger.

Beau visiting Sara and her mother while I was out of town. He always knows how to pose for the camera.

As anyone who has read my blog knows, I found an adorable Cape Cod-style house in the SE section of Portland.  Beau and I now had nearly three times the space of New York to stretch out in.  We quickly established ourselves in the neighborhood with Beau making friends everywhere. Beau and I were seen all over town together. During the first summer, which was spectacular, he often came with me to outdoor restaurants, street fairs--even the farmer's market where dogs are not allowed. I would carry him (heavy) or wheel him around in a carrier with mesh top and sides so he could see outside and be seen. Part of the pleasure of Beau was the reaction his comic appearance. People were always drawn to that cute little dog.

Summers in Portland meant a nap in the sun.

Life was good for an indulged little guy, who had daybeds in practically every room in the house. And then we got a puppy...

Walden, the cutie pie with psychotic edge

Beau and Walden during a quiet interlude

Beau seeking refuge from Walden in Walden's crate. 

Walden was an insanely peppy little black dog who looked adorable but acted like a baby Cujo. He chewed on my baseboards, tore up Beau's day bed, jumped all over everybody, particularly Beau, with whom he was trying to bond.  Beau wasn't having it. He was a puppy, a nuisance, a rude disruption around Beau's very ordered day. Walden would get into Beau's food, or take over his daybed in the dining room.  Beau even escaped into Walden's crate. I had made a promise to the woman we adopted Walden from--Beau had to be happy or Walden would have to be returned. Beau nearly had a nervous breakdown over that little dog. For five weeks the house was under siege. I kept Walden crated in my bathroom with the door closed at night. He would violently scratch at the door and squeal his head off, until I relented and opened the door. He would be confined to the crate, otherwise, we would never sleep. Because he was in he middle of house-training, I kept him confined to the kitchen with gates. The day he chewed through the baseboard (still visible) and ripped up the thin padded mattress in his crate, I knew Walden had to go.  Neither one of us could cope with puppies. Within days of Walden's exit, Beau's appetite returned.  So did the bounce in his step.  We were back to being a team again, with no immature interlopers to get in the way.

Bit arrived with Kyle, a young man my brother, Doug, sent to me to help on projects on my house. Bit was a long-haired cat, a skittish guy with a comic black dot on his nose and the most beautiful color of blue eyes you ever saw. Kyle and found him abandoned as a kitten, and adopted him. Bit was dragged all over the country has Kyle moved from place to place. By the time he arrived at my house in Portland, Bit was terrified of nearly everyone and kept to himself in my basement. He was welcome upstairs but it took a long time for him to feel confident around others. Beau and Bit never became bosom buddies, but I think Bit appreciated Beau's keeping his distance, allowing Bit to make peace between themselves. They got along and occasionally even chased each other around, as long as Beau's interest, which was minimal, kept the game going. They were best photographed in repose.  

Beau and Bit: peaceful co-existence

Sometimes they feigned interest in one another.

Beau's aloofness with dogs always puzzled me.  The only dog Beau ever showed any evidence of enjoying as a companion was my friend, Darrin's chocolate lab, Penny.  Early one we were out with John Baker  at various outdoor events on a weekend, and people would always stop and stare at Beau, want to pet him, while ignoring Penny.  Darrin finally said to one admiring person, my dog is a lovely purebred dog, just like Beau.  "Yes, but it's a common breed that everyone has," I shot back at him. It was a mean thing to say.  Penny is beautiful girl with soft brown eyes, and the kind of white teeth starlets spend a fortune emulating.  She's a happy dog and Beau endured her tail banging against him. He liked her and they were pals.  He didn't have that kind of relationship with any other dog. He was totally content to say as glued to my side as possible. Sometimes other dogs annoyed Beau. My friends Trish and David have a spark plug of Frenchie named Porter. Porter loved to terrorize Beau. When we went to visit, Porter charged at Beau immediately. Beau would try to ignore Porter who would not be ignored. This would go on until Beau lost his temper and then he would get right in Porter's face and read him the riot act. I'd never seen Beau snarl.  Eventually Frenchies lose energy or interest and simply fall asleep. But it was always fun to watch Beau lose his composure, which was rare.

Proof positive of Beau's slacker credentials. He could fall asleep in my lap
in a nanosecond.

My friend Jay had a special rapport with Beau and he now has his own dog--Bella!

Beau made it his business to follow me all through the house. If I was upstairs working in my office, then he was in office daybed. If I was making my bed, Beau would be in his bedroom day bed. If I went downstairs--even for a minute--Beau would follow.  He didn't always like being walked by someone else, and had no problem putting on the breaks if someone were to hold his leash. Handing it back to me always got Beau to move. Otherwise, he would sit. The bulldog in Beau would come out during our walks. He would constantly put on the breaks, making me stop dead in my tracks. If he wanted to go in another direction, he would pull me towards the direction he was interested in exploring. If he tired during a long walk, he would simply sit down and not budge. Sometimes I felt smothered with love, but who could complain?

It is common for animal lovers to extol the virtues of their pets and I'm no exception. Beau rarely tried my patience. He didn't jump on furniture, in fact he preferred to look at me from the floor until I relented and brought him up on the couch for a nap while I watched TV.  He didn't dig holes in my back yard. Or chew on my shoes. He didn't climb into garbage cans looking for food scraps. But he also never played fetch, or tug of war with me, or chased a Frisbee.  Beau was more likely to simply lay down and take a nap. No dog and master were as perfectly suited as we were.

Beau in Trish and David Hamilton's kitchen, begging me to get him away from 
Porter, their over-active Frenchie. 

In some ways the last two weeks with Beau were some of the most memorable. We took a drive up to Seattle for a weekend to spend July 4th with my friend, and colleague, Gypsy, her husband Steve and their adorable toddler, Hickory. They have a young Frenchie named Crumpet with whom Beau played with in New York. Now living and working in Seattle, it was the first time we had seen each other in quite awhile. Beau wrote shotgun in the front seat next to me. He was always a good traveler. I only wish we had done more car trips--such as the long drive to San Francisco, where he pretty much slept in the back seat for most of the 12-hour drive. The last day in Seattle, we attended a street fair near Gypsy and Steve's home. As usual, Beau was a rock star, attracting all sorts of attention. Most were charmed by his presence, asking what sort of dog he was. Beau was always good for a lick and a warm greeting. When Hickory refused to stay in his stroller, Beau obligingly took his place, and Gypsy got the shot on her iPhone. This is the last photo taken of Beau.

Beau loved being wheeled around. Before I got a car, I dragged him everywhere in 
a cart with wheels, and a mesh top and sides he could look through.  Then I could bring 
him into supermarkets, and other places where dogs are not allowed. Beau was never
tied outside of a store or restaurant. I was terrified he'd be kidnapped. 

These memories of Beau have been in my computer for weeks now, stubbornly refusing to be released. As most pet lovers know, it is terrible to lose a beloved pet.  And as always, I rambled on and on, but I do understand that bond and am reminded of the dog food commercial where the master denies he is obsessed with his pooch, despite the fact there is a wall-to-wall oil painting of his favorite in a noble pose behind him in the shot. I refused to have a dog until I had the time to devote to one. I was always working in an office and I saw the anguish so many friends had leaving their pets alone all day long in solitude, waiting for the master of the house to return. So when I found myself working from home, I now had the time to devote to a dog.

If Beau didn't want to follow, he simply put on the breaks and held his ground. 
He often did this with friends, who took care of him in my absense.  He was a
truly a one-man dog. 

The end arrived without much warning and he was gone so swiftly. I hardly had a chance to absorb it all. They say losing a beloved pet is difficult, and I'll vouch for that--it was just terrible. We had each other in our sights for five wonderful years. I couldn't have asked for a better companion. His essential sweetness and affection never ceased to amaze me.  I loved how obstinate he could be. Beau was always dignified, even when passing gas (a Frenchie habit), never acknowledging any loss of dignity even as my eyes teared from the stench. Beau didn't care much for kids, but was patient with them. He knew how to charm, just by standing in front of someone, waiting to be noticed. I'm convinced he managed to endear himself to my friend, Lynne, who has bad knees and is more than a little scared of dogs, having been bitten as a child. One night at a gathering of friends, Lynne was sitting on the couch and Beau came over to her and put his paws on the edge of the couch. Lynne eyed him with suspicion. I went over to her and said, "the only thing Beau wants to do is lay down beside you and go to sleep, I promise." I then put Beau up on the couch and he lined his body up against her side and as she petted him, his eyes closed and he began to snore. Lynne was amazed. She melted and from then on, was always happy to see him. My last conversation with Beau (of course I talked to him all the time), was to thank him for his loving companionship and tell him I was so grateful for everything he had given to me. The richness of his presence and the powerful connection he made with me will never be forgotten. More than anything, I loved how much joy Beau gave to everyone he encountered. His spirit lingers here. He was a dear friend.

This spot not the stairs gave Beau a vantage point. He could see who 
was at the door, and it was wide and comfy enough for a nap site. 

1 comment:

  1. Oh Beau, you special little guy. More person than canine, you had the kind of big heart we sure could use a lot more of. I look forward to the next incarnation when I might get to sit around in a cafe with you and have a good laugh, over liver snap flavored Pastis. I light a candle to you and my departed Alice B. tonight, in memory of your dignified spirit.