Years ago a friend was discussing the wonders of his golden retriever and how it was the best dog that ever lived. “You only get one good dog,” he said, “and this one’s mine.”
I thought about it and agreed that was probably my experience, too, although I counted one good dog when I was a kid and another good dog when my own kids were youngsters. They both had the same name: Bonhomme, a common term of endearment from the years when we had lived in the Northeast Kingdom.
I could feel a stab of guilt for not including my first dog , an adorable puppy named Yipee who was given to me on my fourth birthday. I had to leave him behind when my family moved up north.
And there was Elsie, Ace, Harry, Skipper, Poochie and more, along the way. But the Bonhommes were indeed a rare couple of mutts. They were both the same mixture of shepherd and standard poodle, even though they were unrelated. They looked exactly alike (big, shaggy and black) and had the best qualities of both breeds.
Bonhomme I took excellent care of our family of seven children. Each day he would walk my father to the railroad station, come get me for a later train, get the kids who were going to high school, then elementary school, go back and get the ones who came home for lunch, then pick everybody up, and wind up meeting two trains in late afternoon. He took everybody to church on Sunday and then herded them safely home after waiting on the front steps.
He was a good dog.
Bonhomme II came to my current family when our kids were quite young, and so was he. He got into adorable mischief like eating my contact lenses or chewing up my copy of the “Joy of Cooking.” I can still remember the sight of our 6-year-old daughter sticking her head down his throat and yelling “I smell peanut butter!” after a freshly made sandwich had disappeared from the counter while she fetched herself a glass of milk.
The kids would lift him on to the den couch, a place he was not allowed. Then they would call, “Mom, Bonhomme’s on the couch.” And I would gasp incredulously that he could commit such a crime, while he looked at me with pleading eyes, begging that I should realize it was a put-up job.
When we moved to Vermont we explained to him that he need not be tied up any more as long as he stayed in the yard and nearby woods. He adapted to life in the country in no time. He especially liked the guys who did some work on our house and shared donuts with him. But he got old and rickety and the day came when he 14 that we had to say goodbye.
I still have his dish in the cupboard. Sometimes I think I hear the clink of his tags as slurped from his water bowl.
He was a good dog.