A Dog Named Boo

Boo is a rat terrier, a breed that was stitched together from about a dozen other dog breeds in the early twentieth century, primarily to hunt rats and other vermin on farms.

Ew.

Boo’s early life is sketchy, but at one point he belonged to Sandy, my hairstylist. One day while cutting my hair, Sandy lamented that she spent little time at home and felt bad leaving Boo alone for hours at a time. My ears pricked up. Did I know anyone who wanted a poor little lonely dog? Um, yeah. Always a sucker for poor little lonely dogs, I urged Sandy to drop by the house with Boo. I would take him with one caveat: If my two sons liked him, I would take him off her hands. Well, the kids liked him instantly and even if they hadn’t I would have overruled them since I’m the mom and I get to do things like that. So that’s how, ten years ago, Boo became part of our family.

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Born for the Chase

Boo quickly captures and dispatches small things that move quickly: lizards, flies, spiders, etc. Anything with four, six, or eight legs is fair game. He once even cornered and killed a squirrel in the neighbor’s garage, much to my anger and dismay. Recently he found a stowaway lizard in the house before I could escort it outside. That poor amphibian’s life ended with a sickening crunch I wish I hadn’t been within earshot of.

Boo’s dyed-in-the-wool propensity to chase anything and everything has gotten him into some trouble. When he arrived at our house, he would bolt out any open door faster than you could scream, “Noooo!” With two small children constantly in and out of the house, this was relatively easy for Boo to accomplish. Then came the fun part. He’d run away from you as fast as he could—and he was fast—and keep running until you had just about caught up with him. Sensing imminent capture, he’d race off again. Commands such as “Come!” and “Here!” just made him laugh.

His love of the chase meant he needed a Cesar Milan–type of intervention. What he got was a shock collar. I was so opposed to the idea that I even tried the darn thing out on my arm to see how much it hurt. It hurt. A lot. It also worked, I must admit. The shock collar is history and he’s still not allowed outside without a leash, but these days he’ll sit patiently by an open door and wait for the “OK” that releases him to move.

Doggy Eccentricities

Boo makes seemingly random distinctions between barkable and non-barkable things. In reality, he has a complex system of deciding what and whom to bark at, meaning it makes sense only to him. He always barks at sandhill cranes traipsing through the yard but will often ignore ibises and moorhens and crows. He barks at some people but not others. The doorbell, however, is always barkable. That’s a no-brainer.

He routinely reminds me that dinnertime is imminent by planting himself in the middle of the dining room, facing his food bowl, for up to an hour before it’s time to eat. No matter where I go, I have to step around him. It’s a pretty good tactic that works remarkably well. I rarely forget to feed him.

Never a skittish soul, lately he’s taken to wriggling under the bed when thunder begins, his tail and a thin slice of his rear end the only clues as to his whereabouts. When thunder isn’t in the forecast, I can usually find him in the living room, sprawled in front of the couch or, oddly enough, wedged between two chairs, his head twisted awkwardly to fit between the legs. It can’t possibly be comfortable.

One of his more endearing traits is the series of squeaks he emits as he settles down for the night—or yet another nap. Even more entertaining are the tiny woofs and growls that erupt from him as he “talks” in his sleep. These are usually accompanied by hilarious face and body twitches that make me wonder what I look like when I’m dreaming.

Boo’s newest disgusting habit is eating dried worms left stranded on the driveway after a rainstorm. Yet more disturbing crunchiness. I suspect he’s trying to get more salt in his diet. Yeah, something like that. Leave it to a human to try to decipher the eating disorders of an animal whose brain weighs about as much as 2½ slices of bread.

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My Old Man

Once almost entirely black, Boo now sports the grizzled muzzle, eyebrows, and paws that come with age in even the most young-at-heart dog. I think it makes him look that much more distinguished. He even has white patches around the pads of his paws. Aww.

Last year the vet diagnosed congestive heart failure in my beloved Boo. He now takes three medications daily. The good news is that, with medication, he’ll live a normal life span. He’s now twelve so, since he’s a small breed, he has a few good years left.

Sometimes Boo reverts to his spunky old self, racing through our small house, dodging furniture, and deftly picking up his squeaky toy so he can toss it into the air and play a solitary game of catch.

Great Things about Boo

Boo is the perfect companion. He doesn’t smoke, drink, or curse. He’s undeniably handsome and unabashedly devoted to me. He’s always ridiculously excited to see me, whether I’ve been gone ten hours or ten minutes. He doesn’t roll his eyes at me (unlike my cherubic children). He’s quick to forgive and never holds a grudge.

I have a repertoire of nicknames for my best canine friend: Boo Manchu, B-Nut, B-Muffin, Ooey Gooey Booey, Boo Radley. . . . The list goes on, depending on my level of silliness and ingenuity at any given moment. Of course, he doesn’t respond to any of them except “Boo,” which is, after all, his actual name.

A dog named Boo—my little buddy, my companion, the best friend a gal could have.

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