Bagel, my brother’s dog, passed away on Monday aged 14 years and an estimated 6 months. His exact age is unknown because he found his own way as a puppy to my brother’s doorstep one rainy night. At the time, he had another dog, who reluctantly agreed to tolerate a newcomer.
I thought Bagel was cute from the photos, but it wasn’t until I met him several months later that I fell in love. I don’t think he ever barked at me—he just came over and sniffed and let me pet him, and it felt like he accepted me unconditionally. Over the next several years, it was easily a year between visits, and yet he would recognize me, run up and down the stairs in excitement (or left and right across the back seat of the car if he was coming along to pick me up from somewhere), and stay close to me. He always let me nuzzle his fur, and when he was the one who wanted attention, he would put his long chin on top of my knee when I was sitting. My brother told me he would even look for me after I’d left.
My brother had formed a strong bond with the first dog and despite Bagel being smarter, sweeter, and often better behaved, he was always second place. So I decided Bagel would be “my” dog as well, even though I didn’t have the day-to-day responsibility. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the other dog too, but Bagel was in first place for me. And he seemed to know that.
Bagel was there throughout so many milestones and changes in my life, amid joys, sorrows, and confusion. He’s heard me sing off-tune at the top of my lungs and seen me cry my eyeballs out; and he’s never said a word. So in a way, his existence has also encapsulated a significant era of my life that has determined who I am now.
It feels disingenuous to claim him, and claim the grief of his loss, because the last time I got to visit him was many years ago. I wasn’t there for him in the last years of his life, let alone the last weeks when he was declining. I’ve been physically far removed from him in time and space. The bond I felt with him as “my” dog never waned, but I have come to an unpleasant kind of realization that extremely few people who know me understand that.
My brother was with him when he was euthanized upon the advice of the veterinarian, and kept me posted at each step.
The company that handled Bagel’s cremation took photographs of the process as part of their service. They cleaned him up quite well so he looked mostly peaceful, not ill. It’s very strange to see photos of his body in front of a furnace followed by photos of bones arranged very neatly on 2 trays. The cognitive dissonance forces me to be detached.
Strangely, looking now at photos of him in his prime doesn’t feel much different from when I was looking at them while he was alive. The only difference is the knowledge that he is gone, which draws a line between “before” and “after.”
If I were to associate a perfume with Bagel, it would have to be Banana Republic Classic, because that was my signature scent for several years and is what he would have smelled on me. It’s a basic, summer-fresh, citrus-floral-woody fragrance that can’t go wrong. Kind of like Bagel, really—basic, simple, refreshing, happy, and can do no wrong.