The dog, the myth, the legend: Blue Bear passed away on Saturday, May 23rd, 2009. He was 14 years old.
Blue Bear arrived at Best Friends at around the age of one and quickly set about establishing a reputation as one of the toughest customers on the property. Fighting earned him a roughed up face, a split ear and the loss of a leg in an accident more than a decade ago. Caregivers who have been around for a while have told me outlandish stories – that he would attack his caregivers if he wasn’t the first in his run to be fed, and that he would pass his time with the dog in the run next to his taking turns grabbing each others’ lips through the fence and pulling – for fun.
I didn’t know any of this when I became a caregiver and began to care for Blue Bear, who was at that point 13 years old and in failing health. He needed twice-daily medical baths because he was incontinent, which I was taught to do after muzzling him for protection. After a while when we had built a trust, I stopped using the muzzle and never went back – I never had a problem bathing him, although he didn’t like me to do it with strangers watching. He was a proud, stoic old man, but he also had a very affectionate side to him – he would eventually roll over for belly rubs for me and loved chin scratches. By that point in his life he was having some trouble walking, so instead I would lift him into my golf cart and take him on rides around the property so he could see and be seen with the wind in his face, resting on my lap. In his old age, Bluey had discovered human companionship, affection, and love.
Bluey still had the old spark, though – 13 years old, weak and incontinent as he was, he laid down the rules in his run. A quiet growl of disapproval from the Blue Bear was all it took for his canine companions to drop their shenanigans and leave him alone. If he was feeling particularly spirited that day and he felt I had slighted or ignored him, he might mount an attack on my shoes when I entered his run. Affectionate as he could be, he still commanded respect from both people and dogs wherever he went.
At the end of last year, his health started to take a serious turn for the worse and we were afraid he would not survive the winter with us – our facility was no longer suitable for his needs. We scrambled to find a solution and eventually he was transferred to Dogtown Heights, to a building with extended caregiver hours that had a setup better suited to him. He thrived there, quickly becoming a favorite of his new caregivers, who doted on him. It was there that his caregiver Paul had the idea of getting him an all-terrain wagon so that he could once again go on walks in the company of other dogs, which he loved.
By the beginning of May his health had declined to the point where his quality of life was seriously affected and he had run out of treatment options. The decision was made to let him go, and he peacefully crossed the Rainbow Bridge surrounded by friends and former caregivers who loved him dearly.
Blue Bear never let a day go by that he didn’t grab in his teeth and shake everything possible from. To the end he remained a proud, determined and independent-minded dog. I and many others loved him, and he will be sorely missed. Goodbye, Old Warrior. We will not forget you.