He turns nine in June. My husband Erich and I adopted him just a month after we bought our house at my protest. I had two dogs before him, each breaking my heart with their untimely departures. But when is it a good time to say goodbye to someone you love?
A couple of years had passed since I lost the last dog I had, and I was getting used to the freedom and simplicity of my new life. Being almost empty-nested, I wanted to fully embrace my lack of obligations at home and be able to embark on an impromptu trip whenever I chose. But Erich had a terminal case of puppy fever, and soon enough, I gave in.
Too young by about a week to be weaned from his mother, he had the most enormous head of the litter. Nearly all white, he was just a head and belly with little flippers and a string for a tail. He was adorable and needed a home, so we gave him one.
We tossed around a few names, but when Erich threw out “Banjo,” we knew we had a winner. Over the next year, Banjo would prove to be a persistent pain in the ass and the love of our life as a couple. As he grew, his brown spots and the black speckles on his skin that show through his white fur became more prominent. He is a beautiful boy, and everyone we met at the dog park when he was big enough to go was a fan. Except perhaps for the few boy dogs he emasculated by playfully humping them. He was never dissuaded from attempting friendship with all creatures, though, and has never been aggressive with anyone or anything. We’ve always marveled at his sweetness this way. Even when other dogs have tried to pick fights with him, Banjo is ever the pacifist.
Some days, I was not a Banjo fan. My favorite candy is Red Vines, and we soon discovered they are Banjo’s favorite, too. I had a 2 lb bag of Red Vines ready for movie nights. Somehow he got ahold of that bag and ate the whole damn thing. This happened twice, once followed by a giant pile of red shit in my closet. They are still his favorite candy, and he expects me to share them whenever I have them.
He slept on my neck when we first brought him home, and to this day, if he is not feeling well, he will try to lay on me and put his neck against mine. It is not easy to accommodate 60 lbs of pit bull, but I try. He is an excellent, if not overbearing, snuggler.
Vocal and expressive, Banjo will argue with you and can get as loud as you want. He prefers to take direction or come when he’s called at his discretion. Sometimes, he moves slower on purpose when he knows I want him to hurry up. He will ignore me if I try to get him to scoot over, even vocally protesting the move, which can become an argument.
Although he is still very playful with us, he has matured and mellowed quite a bit since puppyhood. A blessing, I assure you, as his relentlessness was exhausting. Now, he is content to lay, leaning against me, while I stroke his baby-soft tummy and massage the muscles of his “good” hind leg, which now bears the bulk of the work on the back end. I love this time with him.
I once spent an entire night at the vet ER when Banjo was maybe a year old, and we thought he had eaten a pack of cigarettes (he didn’t). I worried for and nursed him for weeks when he injured his spine and lost the use of one of his back legs that same year. He has always gone “hard in the paint.” I’ve woken up on more than one occasion to puking or pooping sounds and had to clean it up, half asleep. He has always been worth it.
He paid me back for my trouble tenfold a few years ago when I was inconsolable over some family drama and fell into the most profound depression of my life. He stayed by my side and let me bury my face in the soft velvet of his coat and cry, licking me now and then, seemingly to ask, “Are you OK?”. Even now, when he snuggles up to me, he will lean in, look up, and stare at me with the sweetest, softest eyes, and I can’t help but feel like he’s conveying his love for me. He is my buddy. Banjo loves to sleep in, but when I wake at 5 AM to shower, he gets up and lays at the bathroom door until I return.
Dogs like Banjo get about 12 years of life, and we are almost to the 9th. Just thinking of life without him tears me apart. He is too vital a cast member of our goofy troupe ever to leave, and I know it will destroy me. Life would be so bland without his submissive smile, scrunchy body, and whippy tail to greet us when we come home—no more high-fives and dog arguments. Much like when the kids left home and took their lights with them. Only when Banjo goes he won’t be back.
I don’t dwell on this, but it inevitably creeps up on me occasionally. Every time it does, I tear up. I hope Banjo knows how loved he is. We joke that he is spoiled, and he is. But that is because he is such a good boy. Or, he’s just really cute. I once said that I couldn’t tell the difference, and it’s true. Either way, he is deserving. As are all dogs.
Banjo has never learned the command “stay,” and I guess he never will. In the end, that’s not something the best boys can do.