Photographs by Natalie Siebers and Basil Rodericks
Bodhisattva Beasley-Sheer joined our family on June 26, 2012.
You can only have one first dog, and Bodhi was mine.
It’s not as if I hadn’t lived with dogs before.
When I was in the first grade, we got Snoopy, and like any little kid I promised to take care of him ALWAYS. But he ended up being my mom’s dog. She was the one who cared for him, she was the one Snoopy followed around.
Decades later, Clark and his dog Kendall moved in. (Actually, Kendall moved in first, but that’s another story!) At fifteen, Kendall was a very old Weimaraner. He lived for about another year, and during that year, I fell deeply, madly in love with him. It was if he’d always been part of my life. When Clark was ready for a new dog, we decided to get another Weim and that we’d name him Bodhi.
I remember being so excited when we drove up to Massachusetts from New York City to pick him up. All I could think about was how much fun this was going to be. I knew Weimaraners were energetic dogs, so I’d bought a harness that would allow him to run alongside me while I rode my bike. We’d go to Fire Island where he’d bound fearlessly into the Atlantic Ocean. I even had grand ambitions that he’d bring home blue ribbons in agility trials.
None of that happened.
A few weeks after Clark and I got Bodhi, he came down with a very bad bone disease that afflicts Weim puppies. You can read about it here. Yet, as terrible as this illness was, our vets assured us that he’d eventually outgrow it by the end of his first year. And while he did get better, the disease left Bodhi’s legs deformed: his front legs were too short, and his back legs were oddly bowed.
But that didn’t slow him down.
While we didn’t get to do many of the things I’d dreamed we’d do (Agility trials? Nah!) We still had plenty of adventures along the way.
The three of us travelled all over the Eastern Seaboard together: from New York’s Adirondacks Mountains to Miami Beach in Florida. Bodhi spent several summers out on Fire Island, and while he never jumped into the ocean, he did manage to get his feet wet in the (very shallow) Great South Bay. He went on sleepovers at friends’ homes. If a restaurant allowed dogs, Bodhi was there waiting for scraps to fall from the table. We went for several long walks every day during which we made lots of friends, human and canine, along the way.
But the thing that made both me and Clark happiest, was to see Bodhi run. He loved to run. There were times when Bodhi was sick that I feared he’d never walk properly, let alone run. His funny little legs left him with a goofy-looking gait, but that didn’t matter. He ran and ran and ran as best he could.
Yet, I think, the best moments I had with Bodhi were the quietest.
Writing posts for Urban Dog, I’d work at my desk in our bedroom. If I glanced back over my shoulder, I’d always see Bodhi sleeping on the bed, twitching while he dreamed, keeping me company while I tapped away at my computer.
Make no mistake, he could definitely get on our nerves!
He’d wake me at three in the morning because he wanted to eat, the only way I could get him to go back to sleep was to feed him.
He’d pull on his leash while going for walks, so hard sometimes that Clark couldn’t walk with him because his feet would hurt.
He’d find some foul-smelling dead fish on the beach, scoop it up and dash away from me, daring me to chase him.
Antics like that ticked us off to no end, and in the moment, it was easy to anthropomorphize him and think he was being annoying on purpose. But of course, we knew better, these were not human failings; it was just Bodhi, being a dog.
A dog who taught me that every irritation and inconvenience, every disappointment and worry, really only existed in me. In Bodhi’s supposed shortcomings, I found my own, and strove to make myself better. In Sanskrit “Bodhi” means “awakening” or “enlightenment.” What Bodhi woke me to was patience and vulnerability and kindness.
Maybe this is another bit of anthropomorphizing, but I’d like to believe that Bodhi loved us.
I think the evidence was there.
I saw it in his ecstatic reaction whenever Clark and I returned home, even if we’d only been gone a few minutes.
I saw it in the way he curled up and spooned with us when we slept at night.
I saw it the one time I screamed at him and spanked him in frustration. He responded by curling his short little tail close to his body in fear and lunging at me.
Bodhi lunged at me and crawled into my lap, furiously licking my face to drive my anger away. I’d never been so ashamed and regretful in my life.
So, yeah, while I am pretty sure he loved us, I do know one thing for certain: we could not have loved him more.
Bodhisattva Beasley-Sheer left our family on May 10, 2021.
He died a few days after his ninth birthday. Not young for a Weimaraner, but certainly not very old either.
For a week Bodhi was in and out of vets’ offices and animal hospitals. His last day Clark and I responded to an urgent call from the vet. They brought him in to a room that resembled a chapel where we pulled in close around him. Clark was crying. He’d spent the last few days convinced Bodhi would pull through, just as he had in the past. My stoicism surprised me.
Bodhi’s nose rested on my arm while the doctor administered the drugs that would end his life. I felt the warmth of his breath slow, then stop.
The veterinarian and I looked at one another. She apologized and said she had to check his pulse. I looked down at him, then back up to her and asked: “Is he?” The vet nodded and again said that she was sorry. She asked if we wanted to spend some time with him. I did not. I told Clark I did not want to remember Bodhi lying there motionless on a vet’s gurney, and so we left.
That’s when I cried.
When anything you love dies, it’s not just the deceased you grieve for, you mourn for the life you shared. You mourn, but more importantly, you celebrate as well. Clark and I shared our lives with Bodhi for nine short years – not even a decade – years that I now look at in reverse. I look back at that time – just as I looked over my shoulder while working at my desk – and I see Bodhi there, my goofy, happy, gentle grey dog.
And that’s when I smile.