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Marked-down Dog
Patricia Walkow
I met Bing on the Internet. A failed show dog, he was on sale and needed a home. A mahogany-toned, one-year-old Belgian Tervuren, he lived in Ogallala, Nebraska. I lived in New Mexico.

My husband, Walter, and I had just lost our half-Belgian rescue dog, Cheyenne. After his death, silence invaded our home with sinister tendrils of loss. We wanted another dog, preferably a Belgian, but a dog who needed a new home.

Belgians aren’t too popular in the United States, so we searched for one online. For five weeks, none were available, but our name was in some queue out in the ether. At week six, Walter received an email about a young male —Bing— who needed a home.

“Why is he available?” we wondered. The breeder answered our questions: Bing was a head-shy show dog who growled at the judges. She couldn’t breed or show him.

“OK, he has issues,” remarked my husband. We offered to adopt him.

The adoption application required us to provide photos of our backyard and the dog’s sleeping area inside the house. We supplied references and wondered if the breeder would run a criminal background check and credit report on us. The questionnaire asked how much we thought it would cost to feed the dog, provide medical care, and supply the dog with “enrichment” and toys for a year. Would we purchase pet insurance?
Three weeks after submitting our application, we learned we were among the finalists to be awarded —yes, awarded— Bing. Not that he would be free, but his price was reduced because of his issues. The competition was on.

We sent photographs of our previous dog, Cheyenne, at Big Sur, walking in nearby parks, and eating at outdoor restaurants.

Still, there was no decision about who would get…I mean be awarded…Bing.

To clinch the deal, I sent the breeder reprints of my newspaper column, Dog’s Day Out, which was published in our local newspaper where I lived in Los Angeles. Cheyenne and I visited different venues and “we” wrote about the great things for dogs and their humans to do. The column apparently made an impression and —here’s that word again— we were awarded young Bing. With one stipulation. The dog must be neutered, so the shyness trait would not be passed on. The breeder would have him fixed.

We drove from Albuquerque to Ogallala in one day. 613 miles. We spent the night in a motel and arrived at the breeder’s house early the following morning, where a pack of nine Belgian Tervurens greeted us: Bing’s father looked like a bear; his mother was dainty. His brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, and cousins welcomed us.

But not Bing. He stood apart.

Accompanied by an entourage of dogs that rivaled the President’s Secret Service detail, we entered the breeder’s house. All tails were wagging, all faces relaxed.

Except for Bing.

With one whistle from the breeder, each dog settled into its cage.

Not Bing. He clung to his mistress.

My husband and I gave each other a knowing look. “It’ll be OK,” I whispered.

The breeder gave us Bing’s favorite toy. The other dogs followed as we exited the house. Bing’s parents jumped into our car, while Bing stood beside the car, refusing to get in.

I coaxed his mom and dad out of the vehicle, then Walter guided Bing inside. I felt guilty taking him away from his family.
Images of sun and clouds casting rippling shadows on vast expanses of rolling range land made for a beautiful drive. And, since I was driving, Walt turned his full attention to our new pet.

I didn’t care for the name “Bing.” The dog’s American Kennel Club name was “Aktion Pak Behaving Badly,” a moniker he would live up to by rummaging through garbage pails, bounding over walls, eating sneakers, and so on. But we didn’t know all that, then.

“What do you think of the name ‘Ranger’?” I asked.

“I like it,” Walt responded.

Bing became Ranger, and though he was our dog, by Denver he belonged to Walter.

Ranger loved riding in the car, excelled at agility courses, and was game for anything —hiking, al fresco dining, doggie day care, dog parks, Halloween parades, hotel stays, and endless rounds of fetch. Yet, he remained a shy dog who felt safest with Walter.

No dog lives long enough. Ranger died at fifteen-and-a-half and we cherish the memories of our marked-down Internet dog.

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