The Bettis and Us Story
We all know the Marley and Me story. Now hereŽs the Bettis and us story. As youŽll see heŽs a rather special dog himself. My husband, Nate, and I had been together almost a year when he got me Bettis, a Weimaraner, as a present our first Christmas together. I lived alone in a town where I knew no one and he thought I could use a companion. From the beginning Bettis thought he was my baby and not my puppy. I let him sleep with me and would never tell Nate because I knew he would never approve. I let him eat my table scraps because I always made too much. Again, no way was I telling Nate because heŽd tell me I was getting the dog into bad habits. Every weekend he and I would pile into my car and drive the two hours to NateŽs to spend the weekend. Bettis cried so much whenever IŽd leave him any other time, if I was leaving to run an errand in the evening or wanted ice cream, IŽd take him along with me. He thought every time I left he should go too.
When he was six months old the three of us, Nate, Bettis, and I, loaded everything we owned in our two falling apart, non-air-conditioned cars in the heat of the summer to drive halfway across the country from Kansas City to Washington, DC to begin our life together as the family we would become. Unfortunately, before we even made it out of my parents neighborhood, Nate took a corner in what I still say to this day was probably in his typical driving too fast way, and right out the window went Bettis. Nate hopped out of his Jeep, left it running in drive, and went after the dog. The poor thing kept trying to walk and would just fall flat on his face. We started out our family journey together with a $300 vet bill and a now limpy for life dog. He had nerve damage and even though we luckily never had to amputate his leg like the vet thought, he never did walk normal again. Bettis rode the rest of the way in my car literally up in the space between the backseat and the rear window. I think he found it the coolest spot among all the boxes in the hot car.
Nate learned soon enough the dog thought he was human and needed to be included in everything. So off Bettis went with us on our new journey of exploring our new home in Maryland. He went on a two day canoe trip with us down the Allegheny River. He impressed everyone that saw him. There we were two of us and our 85 lb dog floating down river, and we did not tip that canoe over once. However, we did have a moment of panic when we all went swimming in the river one night and the current started taking Bettis downstream. It was carrying him away. I started freaking out. He was going to drown! He was going to be lost at river instead of sea! Nate frantically went after him and eventually caught him and pulled him up on the bank and back to our campsite.
Bettis went camping with us on the beach. He loved the ocean and we thought it was hilarious watching him chase his ball in the ocean and try to jump the waves. But the diarrhea that was like a fountain later from all the salt water he took in was not quite so funny. Poor dog.
We took him on countless trips camping up in the mountains in Shenandoah. One night we started setting up camp in rain that was literally coming down sideways it was so windy with the pouring down rain. We eventually had a tent up to sleep in but at some point the wind started breaking the stakes. I gave up and went to sleep in the truck. Nate and Bettis stuck it out, though. And my husband that would give me such a hard time about letting the dog sleep in the bag let that dog crawl right in his sleeping bag with him. The two of them slept cuddled up together in the sleeping bag somewhere underneath the collapsed tent.
Bettis accompanied us on more road trips in the back of our truck than we could count. People couldnŽt believe that he would stay in the bed of the truck. IŽm sure he was thinking heŽd already been thrown out one window and that was more than enough for him. He made countless trips to Pennsylvania, campgrounds, and even Missouri once in the bed of that truck. He loved his people. So much that when weŽd stop to eat, heŽd hop out of the truck, and weŽd find him lying outside of the door we went in to eat or laying in the shade beside the truck. It got to the point weŽd tie him up beside the truck, not so much because we worried about him running off but so people wouldnŽt be mad that a dog was running loose, off a leash.
The only time he did run off was in Pennsylvania during the Fourth of July. The fireworks scared him and he hid in the brush somewhere. I cried until he wandered home a few short hours later. As much as he was a great dog, he did the same crazy things most dogs do. He chewed up one of NateŽs sneakers one time that he hadnŽt even worn yet. He tore up our new carpet in our house in one corner for some really odd reason, and he would leave nice presents in the back room for us when weŽd go out of town and not take him with us. He tried to pee on NateŽs cousin once (guess he wanted to mark her as his). I didnŽt think about those things though. I loved him for how much he adored us, how he would lay his head next to me when IŽd be upset, for how excited heŽd be to go out and play when weŽd get home. He was our family. Because he had been with us from the time we ventured out here to start a life together in the unknown, to going back to Missouri with us when we got married, in the middle of every mess we made making the house we bought our home we loved all of him, the bad with the good.
Four years after it had just been the three of us, we brought our first baby home. I knew Bettis was a little jealous of the baby with his sudden peeing on my carpet! But he loved her, especially as she went from a baby to a toddler. HeŽd let her sit on him; heŽd even tolerate her walking him around the house on his leash. TheyŽd lay together on the floor. The worst thing he probably ever did to her was when she grabbed a hold of his collar and straddled him to go for a ride. He stood up and off she went like a jockey bucked off a horse. Course she cried and then I had to explain to her that we donŽt ride dogs. HeŽd even let her feed him his food piece by piece. Course he learned real fast the quickest way to get our food was to follow her around.
However, as the stresses that come with working, parenting, and running a household mounted up, all of a sudden all of those bad things came to the point of not being able to take it anymore. All of a sudden I was John GroganŽs wife in Marley and Me. The dog stinks to high heaven, he throws a fit when heŽs in the yard, IŽm sick of the poop in the backyard, he wakes the baby up when he barks, IŽm always the one that has to find someone to check on him when we leave town. I threatened many times in the last few months to just get rid of him. I didnŽt have time to take care of a dog anymore on top of what was going to be two babies, a house, laundry, working, and everything else that always seemed to mount up. I thought it, said it so many times that eventually I did wish my dog away.
One morning he was in the backyard because he was driving me crazy with his smell and always on my heels and the next minute he was gone. Nowhere to be seen. I had somewhere to go and me and my daughter to get ready so I said itŽs his own fault. I wasnŽt going to look for him. He could come home on his own. Once again, I had too many things to do to have time to worry about the dog.
For five long days, we waited and worried. Where did he go? Is he safe? Is he hurt? As the days went on, I started to feel bad. Bad that I hadnŽt given him any positive attention lately, bad for yelling at him, bad for making him stay outside when he didnŽt want to be, bad for even thinking we didnŽt want him anymore, just bad. I had been a bad doggy mommy. I saw how worried Nate was for him and my daughter kept asking whereŽs the doggy.
Finally the call came. He was in an animal shelter thirty miles from our house. He was safe and sound and we could come get him any time. I was relieved and excited that he was coming home. Life always gets crazy and stressful but heŽs our dog; heŽs our family. He has always been there for us and thereŽs no doubt he loves us unconditionally. Just like how we all need to make time for family, we as a family now need to make more time for him again. It was a crappy five days but it was a five days I think my husband and I needed to put things in a little perspective for ourselves. We were all ecstatic when we picked him up the next day, and he was just as excited to see us.
Seven and half years later he is still in ways the first "baby" and has become my daughterŽs best friend. We love watching the two of them together and even though my youngest daughter is scared of his barking I think theyŽll become the best of friends too.