A few months ago, my family and I decided to put our 17-year-old dog Ben to sleep. Now even though he had been a staple in my family since I was a kid, almost everyone that knew him would say they didn't like him.
In his younger years, Ben was a feisty little guy. He was a small wired-haired doxen, about 25 lbs, but, for some reason, he never understood that. Whether it be a small poodle or a huge rottweiler, Ben would bark, growl and do whatever means necessary to get across that he was the toughest dog of them all.
Ben also wasn't the best with strangers or small children. He would bark and run like a mad man whenever some one new was over the house. Or, whenever my little cousins were over we'd have to keep Ben outside so they wouldn't run home crying.
Forget about the gardener or the mailman. They stood no chance.
Another word pops to mind when I think about Ben. Stubborn.
If there was one thing that Ben liked, it was being inside. Trying to get him outside in the morning before school and work was harder than anyone could imagine. In fact, it got to the point where we'd have to lead him out by leaving a trail of turkey to the backdoor, then we'd run behind him and force him out when he got near the exit.
In his older years, Ben developed a skin allergy of the worst kind. Not only did it give him dry skin, but it gave him a pretty terrible stench wherever he would walk. Pretty much, you could tell Ben was in the room just by taking a sniff yourself.
Now that was the Ben most people knew. He was wild, stubborn, smelly and hard to control. But there was another Ben not a lot of people knew. Actually, I might be the only person whoever met Ben that knew this side of him.
Believe it or not, Ben was actually very friendly if you spent some time with him. Over the years, we developed a close friendship - one of the best.
He slept on my bed every night. I would play with him more than anybody else and he followed me all around the house and in the backyard. Also, I thought it was kind of cool how feisty he was because I knew he'd protect me if anything ever happened.
I guess if I look back, he wasn't really a family dog. He was my dog.
The only reason my family kept Ben around for so many years was because of me. They wanted to give him away or put him to sleep five years before he truly needed to go. Ben stayed around because I begged and pleaded, and I'm happy it worked out. He was my buddy. My little guard dog. I wasn't going to leave him out to dry.
So, while most people, if not all people, didn't like Ben, I loved him. And it was sad to see him go a couple months ago, but it was time. I got as much out of him as I could, and he was in far too much pain to keep it going.
I always used to call Ben a living legend before we had to put him to sleep, and people would laugh, but I never did. Even though he's not alive anymore, and my family has already moved on and bought a new dog - his name is Charlie - people will always remember that crazy little dog.
At least to the people who knew him, Ben really is a legend that they won't forget, even if they didn't like him.
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