The Monday Post, Vol. 8 — What Was Basil Like?

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As many of you already know, last Thursday evening, May 16th, we lost our dear friend, Basil, after a very brief but severe illness that he was not able to survive.  This time last week he seemed perfectly fine, as perky and active as ever, running, jumping, playing, just like always. But on Tuesday he seemed a bit tired and took longer naps than usual. On Wednesday his fatigue continued and Wednesday night he was restless and unable to sleep. On Thursday he ate his morning meal and then lay down, and his respirations began to speed up a bit. We became concerned and planned to take him to the vet on Friday, but his condition worsened throughout the day until he was breathing quite rapidly and began to weaken quickly. My daughter and her boyfriend took Basil to the nearest pet emergency room, where his condition was critical and the prognosis grave. She made the agonizing decision not to prolong his suffering and to let him go, and he went peacefully, held by the person he loved most in all the world.

It’s been very quiet here at home since Basil left us. It’s been amazing to realize just how much life he took with him when he went. He was a busy dog, always ready to play, to go for a walk, to be interested in and excited about whatever anyone else was doing. His dominant personality ruled over our other pets and us too, at times, when we allowed it. If he couldn’t find someone to play with, he made up his own games with his toys, his favorite solitary game being to put a small ball under the couch, the bookcase, the microwave cart, and try to get it out again, barking for assistance when he pushed it under too far.

Basil loved apples, popcorn, carrots, jumping up and down while his meals were prepared, playing tug of war, going outside, the dog park, tearing paper, wrestling with his younger brother Dexter, grooming my dog Bailey, head-butting our large cat Ti broadside, all his toys, watching the construction workers outside and checking out their power tools, and holidays. In recent months he became an opera fan. One Saturday morning as we listened to our local classical music station and the weekly opera broadcast started, he stopped in front of the radio, lay down to listen and did not move until it was over. He seemed to enjoy it so much that we began listening every week and to my surprise I became an opera fan myself. He loved riding in the car most of all, and with our limited access to use of a car, getting a chance to ride was rare for him in later years; Diana and her boyfriend took him for a last nice ride, which he seemed to enjoy in spite of his deteriorating condition, before taking him to the ER last week.

Basil was a stoic dog. He sometimes suffered from dizzy spells in years past and also injured his back from time to time. He had the occasional stomach upsets, as all dogs do. On rare occasions he had a hurt paw. But his solution to any and every physical ailment was to “walk it off.” Getting him to rest when needed was nearly impossible. Last Thursday when he was feeling so ill he still kept trying to walk it off. He had little sympathy for human ailments, urging us to walk it off, too, which oftentimes we did.

He was creative; in our house in Florida when Diana was away at work, I was working in the back of the house and unable to notice when Basil was at the front door wanting to go outside. He devised a technique of running to the back of the house and banging into the vertical blinds to let us know he had to go, which could be heard from anywhere in the house, and he continued to do that here in Oregon. The only time he did not do that was just before he went to the ER; too weak to run to the blinds, he simply stood near the door and waited.

He had a sense of humor, and justice. If he brought you a ball and dropped it near your feet, you were expected to pick it up, even if you had to reach for it. Sometimes we would say, “I can’t reach it,” and make a half-hearted gesture. “You’re closer to it,” we’d say, and then he’d back up a bit so WE were closer. “Okay, NOW pick it up!” he seemed to say and looked up expectantly, prompting us with a short bark if we took too long. He knew my propensity for dropping things in the kitchen and whenever I was cooking and especially when I was cutting up fruits and vegetables he hovered nearby, knowing something would fall down for him eventually. One year at Thanksgiving we were getting ready to sit down and eat, and the dogs’ plates were ready, too. He had to go outside, but was afraid of missing the meal. He raced outside, pooping as fast as he could, dragging his little bum on the ground and scooting back inside looked about anxiously as if to say, “Did I miss anything??”

We got Basil as a high school graduation present for Diana in June of 2002. At that time we didn’t know the pitfalls of purchasing a puppy at a pet store, and we had been visiting a nearby store where the puppies were kept in open pens and play with them was encouraged. There were three Pomeranian puppies there and I was favoring a small female, but as soon as Basil and Diana locked eyes, that was it. They formed an instant deep and lasting bond that was the hallmark of their relationship all of his life. When she was away from the house he waited patiently by the door until she returned. He watched her constantly, craved her attention and affection, and was willing to protect her from anyone who might do her harm. He liked the rest of us well enough, but it was Diana he lived for.

He chose his own name; when he was a puppy, Diana sat down with him and began reading off a list of baby names. When she came to the name “Basil” he gave a sharp bark, and that was it. Basil he became. However, over time he gained many nicknames: Baby Basil, Basil-Boo, Bee-Beesil, Bah-Bozzle, Bo-Bozil, Bazzly-Woo, Wazzly-Woo, to name a few, and my favorite for him, Bee-Beezo.

His rapid exit from our lives has left us reeling, and Diana devastated. She is laboring under a heavy load of guilt feelings that plague many pet owners who have to part with their loved one; “Did I do enough? Did I spend enough time with him? Should I have taken him to the vet sooner?” and most heartbreaking, “Did he really know how much I loved him?” Frequent reassurances that he did, of course, do little to assuage her grief. That he is not here to greet her when she comes home brings her to tears whenever she walks in, and her nights are long and lonesome without him near her bed. It’s going to take her quite a long time to recover from this blow. Yes, she still has Dexter, and sweet though he is, there will never be any replacement for Basil in her life.

I’ve been gathering together the pictures I have of him, plus my sister sent some she had. Some pictures have been lost due to crashed computers in the past; some are of poor quality because of the low mega-pixel camera we had when he was a baby. But I wanted to celebrate his life by putting together a video to convey a bit of why he was so special to us. I completed it last night and here it is; I hope you enjoy it, and hug your pet today, remembering we never have as much time with a pet friend as we’d like.

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