Well, we are Most Sad to tell you that, after 14 years with our family, he had to leave for the Bridge on Friday. And our hearts are just broken all to pieces. Mom wanted to say some stuff about him and I said that was A-OK by me. So here she is…
My family is pet-crazy. Always has been. We take care of them like children, fuss over them, spoil them, write blogs about them (cough, cough). And no matter which branch of the family the pet belongs to, the rest of us love them like our own.
But there are certain pets whose personalities and antics are so much larger than life that they become something of a legend and find their way into family lore.
Bridger was (and is) one of these.
He came into our lives almost 14 years ago. My sister had just started medical school and decided she wanted a dog. However, she knew that it would take a certain type of dog to deal with the life of a medical student and eventually resident. The dog needed to be loyal and friendly, adaptable and independent but not crazy high-energy. A tall order. And so my sister, being who she is, threw herself into researching dog breeds. Finally she decided on a breed none of us had ever heard of…an Italian Spinone.
Spinones are gun dogs popular in, well, Italy. But they are not well known in this country and at the time, there were only a few breeders. And that also meant that there were none in rescue. So after more research, my sister found a wonderful, reputable breeder in Iowa and drove hundreds of miles to retrieve her new best buddy. She named him Bridger Teton, after the National Forest near Yellowstone where she had worked a blissful summer as an RN.
At the time, the entire family thought she had lost her mind.
Of course, it didn’t take long for us to fall for this gangly, goofy, sweet guy. Over the next several years, Bridger was the one steady constant in my sister’s life amidst a sea of change. He helped her finish medical school, and then moved with her from Oklahoma to New Mexico where she started and completed her residency. They hiked, went camping and took road trips together. He was there when she met the man she would eventually marry (and Bridger’s likeness, of course, graced the groom’s cake). And he was by her side when our dad died. A couple of years ago, they traveled full circle when they once again moved back to Oklahoma.
During all these years, the Bridger Lore grew and today, we can all repeat Bridger stories. Like when he…
- Broke away from my sister, jumped into a pond full of ducks, retrieved one, swam back and deposited the bird, startled but unhurt, at my sister’s feet while horrified children looked on.
- Wandered, uninvited, through a neighbor’s open patio door and made himself at home.
- Hid behind my sister when my 8 pound cat charged him.
- Discovered that the gate was unlocked, left the back yard and then deposited himself on the front porch to await my sister’s return.
- Deftly snagged a PB&J sandwich from my 3-year-old niece as he walked by without even slowing down.
- Ate 120 chocolate chip cookies in a matter of a few minutes and didn’t die.
- Ate a 5 pound bag of sugar and didn’t die.
- Broke into the food closet at doggie daycare and ate all the other dogs’ food…and didn’t die.
- Ate a bag of potting soil…and didn’t die.
Hmmm…there might be a running theme with those last few.
Yes, Bridger’s appetite was huge. But then, he was huge. When he walked through a room, children, smaller pets and adults learned to get out of the way or be knocked down. He wasn’t doing it to be a bully. He truly didn’t comprehend his size and seemingly had no sense of his body in space. We often joked that in Bridger’s mind, he was a teacup poodle.
Happily, that big appetite and big body came with a big heart to match. He was a sweet, sweet boy and, without a doubt, the most gentle, even-tempered dog I’ve ever known. Nothing seemed to phase him (well, except dinner being a few minutes late).
He was such a presence, that dog. A humongous, furry, bearded reminder to love life and the people in it no matter where you are, to be gentle with and accepting of others and, most importantly, to eat well and often.
We all appreciate how lucky we were to have Bridger for as long as we did. But as we all know, it’s never long enough. He leaves behind a hole as big as his appetite. And of course, no one feels it more deeply than my sister. My heart aches for her.
But I have no doubt that when Bridger got to the Bridge, my dad and the Pirate Cat Ripley and Zero (another family dog o’ lore) were there to greet him. After that, they probably all went for a swim, rounded up a few ducks and then finally sat down to an all-you-can-eat buffet of chocolate chip cookies, PB&J sandwiches and assorted 5-pound bags of sugar.
Enjoy it, big guy. Until we meet again.