“Bentley, come on,” I hollered into the living room. He lies next to the coffee table which is covered with remote controls, books, pens and coasters. I am ready to take him for his daily walk before dinner. Bentley looks out the window, lazily eyeing the goldfinches flitting around the flower garden in the evening sunlight.
Bentley lifted his head. He shakes it, while the tags hanging on his black collar make an irritating sound. His thick coat of hair needs a brush taken to it. Giant paws. His long tail swinging each time he likes the words being spoken. He has to think for a minute if he is ready for a sunny Maine day outside.
“It’s time, Bentley. We must get going,” I say as I head to the porch where his leash hangs on the door knob. I stop and think: This dog came from San Antonio where the rescuers indicated he was probably chained on a concrete pad. A place where heat rules and water is a necessity.
But one day he somehow got free and took off, wandering the interstate. Someone stopped and picked him up with nothing to indicate where he belonged. A shelter would become his next home.
This is all happening while we search on the internet for rescue labs. There we spotted him with a write up suggesting he might be a good fit for us, already thinking that Bentley would be a perfect name, sounding a bit like royalty. We contacted the foster care family who indicated he was a really good dog; kind, gentle with a laid-back personality.
Leon’s son, Marty, met Bentley in Fort Worth.
“I would take him in a minute, Dad but as you know, we already have two dogs. After being with him for an hour we think you guys would love him.”
That’s all it took.
In January 2015, in New Hampshire, we picked up the next member of our family. A huge rescue trailer arrived with 30 dogs in 30 different crates, all barking loudly, looking for a new home.
Bentley was the first to stagger out where a lot of snow surprised him as he put his feet into the cold surroundings. I could tell it was something he had never experienced. Bentley was not the usual well-treated, long-living lab we were used to. From his appearance and sad, sad face we could see the abuse this dog had gone through. In witnessing all of this, Leon and I looked at each other, both predicting a very short stay at the Bausch house.
Bentley, was standing in the snow, shaking and scared. We lifted him into our blanketed back seat, witnessing a lonely set of eyes. I immediately placed myself in beside him. He finally laid down and slowly went to sleep, his head being rubbed and kind words spoken in a tone that sounded safe. As I pet his head, I whisper, “it’s going to be ok, Bentley.”
This 72-pound yellow lab came to us from an animal shelter. There was a bit of a surprise when he arrived as the description did not match our expectations. The papers told us he was six years old, while the vet informed us he was closer to 10. Mistreated. Teeth chewed to the bare gums. Black scars on his elbows worn raw from the cement. Four growths on his body that needed to be removed. Ears full, of a gooey sediment, as evidenced by the snapping noise they make while he shakes his head throughout the day.
We tell stories.
We tell stories to make sense of our lives.
We tell stories to communicate our experience of being alive.
We tell stories in our own distinct voice. Our own unique rhythm and tonality.
Transformations is a weekly story-telling column. The stories are written by community members who are my students.
From time-to-time we will feature guest writers whom we have invited to contribute to the Transformations series.
Our stories are about family, love, loss and good times. We hope to make you laugh and cry. Maybe we will convince you to tell your stories.
— Kathrin Seitz, editor, and Cheryl Durbas, co-editor
"Everyone, when they get quiet, when they become desperately honest with themselves, is capable of uttering profound truths. We all derive from the same source. There is no mystery about the origin of things. We are all part of creation, all kings, all poets, all musicians; we have only to open up, only to discover what is already there." — Henry Miller
Kathrin Seitz teaches Method Writing in Rockport, New York City and Florida. She can be reached at email@example.com. Cheryl Durbas is a freelance personal assistant in the Midcoast area. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We have noticed a great change in him since his first days with us, three years ago now. I see a new Bentley enjoying life, just lazily taking it easy, as these thoughts of where he came from tear through my mind. A gift of joy, if only for a little while longer, as the years are catching up with him.
This mistreated animal appreciates the love and compassion shown him — rolling over in the green grasses, enjoying a walk to the mailbox, resting at our feet to watch TV, always beside us.
He stands by the back door of his Ford limousine, waiting to hop into his backseat den. Each trip to the vet he is greeted with, “Hi handsome! You won the lottery, didn’t you?”…and so have we.
Barb Bausch graduated from the University of Iowa, majoring in elementary education and receiving her Master’s Degree at the University of Texas in Dallas. She spent more than 30-years working with students, loving the challenge of connecting with sixth graders and teaching them to create and appreciate good writing while also becoming lifelong readers.
Now, she and her husband, Leon, are retired and enjoying life in Maine. Barb is spending her time with the Rockport Garden Club, enjoying a monthly book club, painting in acrylics and watercolors and writing a book on entertaining.
I have enjoyed learning from Kathrin Seitz. After taking three writing sessions over the years, I have nothing but pure praise as she is a master at helping me understand how to put pen to paper.