The Long Goodbye
There was no plan to get a dog, but we were out yard-saling when I saw the ad for a labradoodle: free to a good home. Let's go, just to look at him, I urged Jeff.
"He's really smart," the vet told us, "but he's like one of those kids with ADHD who knows the right answer but can't resist the impulse. Wear him out a little. Maybe get him a backpack to help carry his water on a hike."
He had this adorable beard and the most soulful eyes. People were always mentioning it and asking about him. "What kind of dog is that?" Jacob, maybe three, would tell them, "His name is Berkwey. He's a wabadooble." He couldn't whistle, so he'd call to the dog, "Berkwey, come here! Berkwey, come here! Woo-oo-oo!"
He was like a big teddy bear. He'd be more likely to lick you to death than bite, but one summer day I was over at the playground next door with Jacob and Berkeley. When Jeff got home, we walked back to see him and he hid in the trees to pretend scare us. Berkeley caught sight of the lurking shadow and started barking and growling. I never worried about strangers after that.
The older boys would take him for walks and play with him. More than once little Jacob took him out to go to the bathroom and ended up dragging on the ground after the dog spotted a squirrel.
Berkeley was with me on my first double-digit run and finished looking like he'd be glad to turn around and repeat it. I did a lot of wee hours running while marathon training, and whether it was early-morning darkness or at nighttime after the kids were in bed I always felt safe with him along.
We took our first backpacking trip last year, a short shakedown with Chuck, Lori, and their dog. Berkeley and Breezy ran around off-leash, dashing back and forth through the woods. They accompanied us down to the spring to get water, chasing each other around. Eventually, many years her senior even in people years, Berkeley took a break, only running after her when she'd get close.
I left Friday morning for a race in Iowa. Jeff was at work, and Jacob was at home. At fourteen, he's been home plenty of times without me, but that was the first time I'd ever left him alone. Berkeley had always been there.