Bono the Basset Spaniel

In memory.

After 7 years of marriage, and when our daughter was about 3, my husband and I finally bought a townhouse. Besides the glorious benefit of not having to move because rent went up or a landlord wouldn’t fix the mold problem or a landlord wanted to move back in, this meant one thing to me. We could get a dog!

My husband and I had both grown up with dogs and loved them, but my husband worried about the cost of a dog. This was a legitimate worry, what with teachers’ salaries. Our cat Javert (bleh, I’m not a cat person, although Javert was a pretty cool one) hardly cost a thing besides a little food, and we didn’t have to worry about being gone all day, it’s true.

However, I knew that having a dog would be fun and easy and cheap. I just knew it!  I brought the subject up once in a while, and one day I came up with a brilliant new tactic for my U2-loving husband.

“What if we name him Bono?”

My husband cocked his head. “Hmmm.”

I started looking on Petfinder for a springer spaniel mix. I grew up with an awesome springer, but I love mutts. I like their uniqueness, and whether it’s true or not, I’ve always heard they have fewer health and temperament problems. We wanted a male puppy, and it only took about three weeks for the perfect litter to appear on the pet-finding site. Seven 12-week-old springer/basset puppies about three hours away. Four of the puppies were male. I knew I’d be a terrible dog trainer and would need to rely on breed attributes, and basset sounded like the last breed on earth to bite someone. I filled out an application immediately, and a few days later, my daughter and I were on the road.

We picked up my dad halfway. I wanted him to help me navigate. “But if you come,” I said, “you WILL come home with a puppy for yourself. They’re that cute.” My parents had gotten to the “no more dogs” stage.

When we got to the home of the breeder who was fostering the litter, the woman put the girl pups in her house and let my dad, my daughter, and me play with the four boys. 50 people had applied for the seven pups, who were named after the seven dwarfs. My dad fell in love with Dopey and told the woman that if the 50 applicants didn’t pan out, he’d take him. Doc was the pup I’d kind of liked from the Petfinder picture, but the breeder was thinking of keeping him for herself. She liked the personalities of this litter better than any of the litters of border collies she’d bred.

Sleepy was the smallest, and though the other three jumped on us and kissed us, he followed my daughter around the yard and sat down next to her whenever she stopped.

“We’ll take that one.”

The woman wondered if I wanted to take a little longer with them, but I knew. Sleepy, the only short-hair, was now Bono. And bonus, he was the one my husband had liked the picture of!

When my daughter and I led Bono up our walkway, my husband said, “Ohhh my gossshhhh.” Bono was that cute. Also, the foster mom called my dad the next day. She had liked him so much she bumped him up the list, and Dopey became Mosie.

Exactly like in Lady and the Tramp, Bono quickly went from my husband making him sleep on a pillow next to our bed to sleeping on the bed at my feet. He was the perfect dog except for taking over a year to be housebroken. Pro tip: Bassets have such a good sense of smell that no matter how much you scrub the carpet where they peed, they can still smell it and think it’s their bathroom. And Bono peed about six times an hour.

Aside from the few days when I wanted to give Bono back to the shelter while I was scrubbing the carpet (my husband forbid it, now every bit as attached as I was) we had a great time. Oh, and aside from the time I thought I could handle a three-year-old kid and an untrained dog by myself at the beach and our dog leash and sand toys were swept away by a rogue wave and Bono rolled in a dead seagull. And aside from the time Bono barked to go out and then when I opened the door he ran instead over to the couch where I’d set my dinner and had himself a big bite. And aside from the time his beloved Javert passed away and we got a new kitten that he did NOT approve of for weeks.

When we first got Bono, our daughter was still reluctant to sleep in her own room, but when we offered to have Bono sleep on her bed, she made the transition. Bono did not like changes in routine, but he took the new nighttime arrangement like a champ. Years later, when he woke her up too much at night, he didn’t want to switch back to our bed. He’d still go to her bed every night and I’d have to call him into my room.

Bono was hard to walk. Actually, he was easy to walk until he saw a cat. Once, I ended up flat on my face. And so, as every bush in our neighborhood seemed to hide a cat, Bono didn’t get taken out as much as I wished I could take him out. I had pictured myself as one of those people with a chill dog lying at her feet outside a cafe. Alas, Bono was not that dog. Another thing I found out about bassets too late is that no matter how well trained they are, if they see or smell a small animal, they forget their training. In fact, I think they even forget their owner. Owner? What owner?

But other than not getting out enough, Bono was well-spoiled. He didn’t like to be left outside, so he’d make me stand at the back door and watch him go potty (once he was finally trained). If I walked away, he’d bark to come back in without doing his business. My husband thought I was ridiculous, but I was the one who would just have to let Bono out again ten minutes later if I didn’t comply.

He was too delicate to sleep on our cheap carpet. He needed a spot on the couch. And when his long body tired of curling up on one end, he’d hop off and come stare at me at the other end. Then he’d look at his vacated end of the couch and back at me. “Move, please.” My husband also thought I was ridiculous for moving from one end to the other all evening. But I thought it was funny.

My parents moved closer to me, and what joy! Bono and Mosie took turns chasing each other around my parents’ back yard until we stopped them because their eyes were bloodshot. Then they’d drink in tandem, wag their tales in uncanny synchronization, and lie down panting, Mosie a bigger, harrier twin. My dad marveled at their identical habits and personalities.

Bono loved every person he met. I loved how he had a deep basset bark when someone knocked on the door, but secretly I wondered if he’d protect us from intruders or simply jump up and lick their faces with glee. “How wonderful that you’ve come over! Do you want to throw a toy?”

So many things I know I’ll remember forever. Strangers asking me what on earth breed he was; his hiding when I turned on the oven because one time turning the oven on led to the scary smoke detector beeping; camping in Oregon and the big, black, camp cat not fleeing like every cat before had fled, and Bono’s shock at getting a nice swat across the face…

And he was cheap, as dogs go. Other than a few ear infections, we lucked out. Bono just kept ticking. He made it well past the expected lifespan of a basset, and on the long side of the spaniel expectancy. One day when he was 13, he just didn’t want to eat. Climbing the stairs took him a long time. He took a breather half way up. I took him to the vet, hoping that it was just an infection where I’d let his nail grow too long and it had curled under. It wasn’t. It was just almost his time to go. Two days later, he didn’t even attempt the stairs. We stayed up until three in the morning watching T.V. downstairs because we didn’t want to leave him alone. His whole life, he was always happiest when the whole family was in the same room. My heart broke when we went upstairs and he didn’t follow. At five, he barked, but he wasn’t at the door to go potty, he was still lying on the floor. I brought my pillow and a blanket and slept on the ancient futon couch, which I would have done in the first place if it weren’t for what usually happens to my back when I fall asleep there.

When I woke a couple hours later, it was clear that we needed to take him in. I don’t want to make you cry if you’re not crying already, so I’ll spare you the details. Everyone who’s ever had a dog knows what it’s like to let go of having that dog run to the door when you come home, joyful whether you were at work all day or simply at the mailbox. Anyone who’s had a dog knows how much we’ll miss Bono. He was the first dog I ever chose for myself. I hope he’s running with Mosie again. He was a good dog.


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