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  • Writer's pictureWendy

A walk in the woods that changed our lives

Updated: Nov 2, 2020

I wanted to share a tale about our furry companion. Up at our Mountain House in North Georgia, our besties live across the street. They are dog people, Mark is a dog aficionado really, and they also sell real estate up in North Georgia, here is their website in case you ever want property in North Georgia 🙂

Anyway, they have always had a dog, and therefore, we sort of have a dog too. With our encouragement, they would and currently do bring their dog over to our house when hanging out. All our mountain friends’ dogs are welcome in our home. The particular timeframe I am getting ready to talk about is back in 2007, and at that time they had a Sheppard named Tucker. He was a super sweet boy, and when we went on hikes we would take him with us, even if Scott & Mark could not join.

Let’s Go Hiking

So, back behind our house is the Cohutta Wilderness Area, and within that, there is a trail called the Benton MacKaye trail. We can access it with a short drive from our house and it is about a 3-hour loop. So, back then, we grabbed Tucker and off we went!

As we were hiking we ran into this really large group of people that were sort of camped out in one spot. They were friendly, and they alerted us to this black dog that had been following them for a while. I remember thinking to myself, gee, I wonder why they would tell us that…

So we walked by the group with Tucker, with no incidents between the dogs, and we carried on. When we are up in the wilderness, we don’t leash the dogs, they get to roam free as they really just stick by us anyway. As we were walking away I couldn’t help but notice that black dog was now following along with us as we went. We were about an hour in on the hike when we ran into him, and then after another hour, that black dog was still with us.

There was a natural spring head that we came upon and the black dog started drinking the water and did so for a while, and I found myself waiting for him to finish up before we kept on moving. I started calling Mark, Tuckers Dad, and told him about this dog.

Hey, Mark, I said, there is this cool dog, I think you might like him! He had a collar on but no information on it… don’t you want another dog I asked? He kept telling me that he already had a dog, they didn’t want another dog. I said okay, but then called him again to ask if he is sure that he didn’t want this dog! He seemed really nice!

No, was the firm answer, no to a second dog for them. Then, another hour passed by as we walked, and I definitively pronounce to Joe:

“Joe, this is going to be our dog and we are going to name him Benton”.

To which Joe responds, “I don’t want a dog”.

And I say, “Me either… I’m just telling what’s happening”.

And so it begins…

You see, I thought I married the only other American that didn’t want a dog (It IS un-American to not want a dog – no???). I was bitten several times as a kid and I just had a general nervousness about dogs and having one of our own wasn’t something I wanted to do. I came to love Tucker, he was a big dog, but he had a kind heart and I could feel that. But when Joe and I met and we talked about what life would look like for the two of us, a dog was never in the mix! I always said, maybe a kitty someday, maybe a kitty! But never a dog. That was not part of our plan.

We finally got back to the car and we put Tucker in, and then what to do with this Black Dog? He sort of growled at Joe when he tried to put him in as well, so we thought he would just find his way home?!?!?! I drove away slowly, and he ran, for a little over a mile, just behind our car, to Scott and Mark’s house, where we dropped Tucker and Mark was there to greet us. He ran the whole way home following us. How cool is that?

Mark said hello to this new dog, chuckling, as I think he knew this was our dog too… and then we drove home just across the street and he followed us there too. He didn’t stay where Tucker was, he went with us.

He spent the night on our couch in our outdoor living room, and then we knew he was going to be with us, well, forever. He was really mangy and stinky, so we gave him a bath, the first of many to get that stench out. Who knows what he was eating and what was in his body, and how long it had been since he had a bath.

To have those words about him being our dog on the trail fly out of my mouth so easily was pretty far off the wall for us. But it was true. That dog picked us, bottom line. We didn’t have a choice in the matter and I am so thankful he knew before we did.

He has been such a joy for us, such a healing place and a healthy place. When we got a condo downtown ATL I knew he had to get some exercise, and it turned out I was struggling with my weight and needed to move too. We walked 5 miles every day together. He was always my faithful walker and we explored so much of that city together.

He was uncanny in remembering where the pizza crust or a chicken bone was on the sidewalk on our city walks and when I would forget it was there on the 3rd day walking by it, he knew to look for it and gobbled it down before I even realized what had happened… I should have just let him eat it the first time around!

We ended up with Benton for 12 years, the vet thought he was about 4 years old when he found us in 2007, and that math puts him at 16. We ran his doggie DNA and he was 50% Lab, 25% English Springer Spaniel, and 25% Mutt. I say there should be a few percentage points in there for hungry! I think he scavenged for food for so long, he always remembered that and was constantly wanting more food. He was almost insatiable.

The funny and the sad

This was one of my funniest memories of him. We fed the cat on the kitchen table at our Mountain House as he would eat her food if we didn’t. So one day, Joe left and I think Benton forgot I was still in the house. The minute Joe left, I came out of our bedroom to find him STANDING ON THE KITCHEN TABLE eating the cat food…. and I just laughed so hard at the sight of this 75 lb dog standing upright on our dining table, but I knew I had to administer some discipline. Once I collected myself, I did and he got down and knew for sure that was not the right thing to do! He looked guilty, ’cause he was!

Food was most important to him, Food and Joe. The two loves of his life.

We had to say goodbye to our old faithful a few days ago. Cancer got the better of him and he stopped eating. And when he did eat, he threw it up. Joe and I always said to each other, we will know it’s time when he stops eating. This pic of him I took on his last day.

We bid farewell to our family member who made us whole. His light, his energy, his devotion, and his regality are already greatly missed. There is a big hole in this empty house, a void that was so fully filled with his presence. I knew it was going to be hard to say goodbye, but I felt like I was somehow ready for it. I wasn’t. Joe and I are both torn up, it really is like losing a family member and we feel, well, really sad. Balloon sized, gigantic overwhelming sadness.

But we are better for having known him, better for caring for him, better for having him in our lives.

Big B, we will always love you & Miss you!

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