“Do you think you’re going to leave your bedroom this week?” Pete asks me one afternoon, poking his head through the door I should have locked.
“Don’t be dramatic…I leave every morning for the Methadone clinic”
“Yeah, but you should really try and do something else…”
“Some people never leave their house Pete, have you seen My 600 Lb. Life?”
I wish he’d go on another business trip. I do better life wise when he isn’t around.
“Come on, I’ll buy you something” he presses on.
“I can just use credit cards on Amazon and have stuff delivered here…”
“How about a dog…”
I finally sit up in the large bed I’ve placed in the direct center of the bedroom.
“As long as it can be an English Bulldog”
No one should have ever let me take responsibility for another living creature. When I find the breeder and put the deposit down I’m still living with Pete. In his mind, I’m sure this is going to carry on indefinitely. There are already two dogs on the property, but they stay in an enclosure on the west side that is mostly grass. They are big and stupid, and I only see them once every couple of weeks when I get bored and wander over.
I pick Bentley out of a plastic dog pool with four puppies at the beginning of February. He has the largest head and is the most expensive. I name him after the car I’m hoping Pete will buy me next.
Three weeks later Pete and I get a gay divorce, and Bentley comes with me to Monument Avenue. I’m a single parent and not the kind that has heroic stories written about them in the paper. It’s more along the lines of ‘child rescued from drug and sex dungeon’. If we’d had an actual divorce there is zero chance I would have received visitation rights, let alone custody. I’m 20, addicted to Methadone, Xanax, Adderall, and Vodka, and sometimes sleep for 36 hours stretches.
Bentley seems happy though as he has nothing to compare his life to other than what he gets with me. The situation is probably perfect for a dog. I let him go to the bathroom wherever he wants and just wipe it off the hardwood floor. I teach him how to pee in a litter box on the balcony and leave the door open all night. Bentley is allowed to sleep in bed with me but prefers to crawl under it and stay there until I emerge. I take him for walks most nights after 3am when I’ve finally come home or am finally getting up. He is my best friend.
The incident occurs during one of our walks. It’s summer, and Jenny drops me off at home after leaving a bar in the Fan. I put Bentley on his leash and we walk up Monument, admiring the turn of the century mansions lit up artificially, and the statues at every intersection. It starts to rain so we head home. I come through the back and take him off his leash at the bottom of the metal steps so he can run up unencumbered. I bend to tie my shoe and as I stand up I hear a crash and a terrible scream. Like something or someone is being murdered.
That’s when I see Bentley in the alley. He must have slipped through the stairs and fell. He’s on the pavement, lying on his front leg. Bentley isn’t bleeding, but I can tell that the leg is broken. He won’t stop screaming.
I scoop him up and bring him inside. After lying him on my bed, I call my mom. She tells me I can use her credit card at the Vet. My Mercedes is in Pittsburgh, waiting to be sold since I keep getting arrested while driving it. Without a car, I have to wait for Pete to wake up to drive me, so I lay next to Bentley and cry until he falls asleep.
After the accident, I’m a little more careful, but again I wouldn’t have won any awards. My friends and I start calling him a pirate because his cast sounds like a peg leg on the wood floors.
Pete buys a house in Florida and we alternate driving and flying for when we visit. When we drive I make Bentley sit in the back seat in case there is an accident. I refuse to wear a seatbelt because if there is an accident I want zero chance of surviving. If we fly, we put Bentley in the pet hotel. When I pick him up they give me a report card and he always earns five out of five stars in every category, proving that he is part of my bloodline.
Bentley moves with me to Fairfax, and we grow closer as my world grows smaller. I get a second DUI in January when the police catch me walking around my car on the side of the highway. I’m under the impression that there is something wrong with it, but it’s just out of gas. They give Mitra a drunk in public when she falls out of the passenger seat on to the ground. I mean really, they should have known better than to open the door like that. We spend the night in jail, and all I want to do is get home to Bentley because we’d left him in his cage.
He starts chewing the woodwork in my apartment. Window sills, door molding, baseboards, all destroyed in a matter of months. The apartment complex screws something up with the maintenance, and my mom ends up getting my security deposit back when I move out.
Back in Pittsburgh, Bentley bonds with the remaining family dog. Homer is an English Bulldog too, and they start napping together and playing tug of war.
I leave for Virginia again the following year and Bentley stays at my parent’s house. It’s talked about for a while, me taking Bentley once I’m settled. But he’s bonded with Homer, and more to the point, with my Mom. She takes care of him. Better care of him than I ever could, it would be selfish to take him back.
Bentley still lives at the house in Hampton and sleeps in my childhood bedroom. He is the last remaining bulldog and one of the last memories I have of Pete. He is old for a bulldog, eight and a half, and he has a lot of health problems. My mom pays the vet to come to the house since he growls if you try to pick him up or tell him what to do. There is still a lot of me in the dog.
I’m sure I’ll be there when his back legs stop working and we are forced to put him down. I imagine he will poop on the vet one last time. At least I’ll be able to hug him goodbye and know that I made the right choice.