He was true to his breed and protective but aloof. He kept his nose three inches from my business from the start—my companion through many iterations of me: newlywed, grad student, new mother, expat, soccer mom, and beyond. His loyalty lay with us and maybe one or two others. If he didn’t exactly steal your heart, he probably stole something off your plate. He liked dairy, dirty diapers, and—well, all garbage actually. He recycled horse poop: eat, excrete, eat, etcetera. He swallowed corncobs, peach pits, and a whole avocado from the kitchen counter. He wolfed down a double loaf of my mom’s banana bread (and she doesn’t even like baking anymore). He licked our newborns’ earwax and the extra milk from their cheeks. He stole 5,437 soft pretzels from the hands of Bavarian babies before the Germans finally kicked us out.
He stymied veterinarians the world over with his random, often self-inflicted, and always complex ailments. He ate a plastic milk bottle and chased it down with 3 pounds of wild grass, which had to be surgically removed and promptly thrown out so he wouldn’t eat it again. He contracted a bacterial infection that made every inch of his fur feel like bubble wrap to the touch. He was incontinent from the age of 18 months old: I did more weekly laundry for him than I did for our three kids combined. He got tetanus (dogs don’t, really). He impaled himself on a fallen log and then finished a five-mile run with a six-inch hole in his chest. He was attacked by a cat, lost on a trail run, locked in a boathouse, and rescued from drowning in the middle of a choppy lake. He once ransacked a hotel room. He boarded more international flights than most people do in a lifetime.
Also, he liked beer gardens and basking in the sun.
He protected us from dangers known and imagined. He swamped a kayak while trying to save me from a sea monster in Lake Winnipesaukee. He pinned a stonemason against our house. He tore the shirt off a DHL guy. He took off after a balloon deliveryman on our daughter’s fourth birthday. He was maced by the mailman. Just once, I bailed him out of dog jail.
Despite all this, he somehow outlived every single one of his puppyhood friends.
When we brought him home 13 years ago (almost to the day), I sobbed, feeling the heft of responsibility. I’d have wept even more had I known what mischief was afoot, and what great big love I would someday have to let go. Over the last few months, even though he couldn’t hear me, I’ve told him over and over again—you will always be my favorite—and hand over my heart, it’s the truth.
Tenzin, you big old boof, we loved you like crazy.