closeup of a large black dog’s nose

Bismarck wasn’t just a GOOD dog he was the BEST dog.

Published 2017-04-05

For almost as long as it’s been Jenny+Paul it’s been Bismarck+Jenny+Paul. Before we bought a car or got married or moved to China or bought a house or had kids — Bismarck was already there.

Our new puppy, Bismarck

Bismarck wasn’t just a GOOD dog he was the BEST dog. This is not boasting it is objective FACT. When you say the word “dog,” the Platonic ideal of “dogness,” you are thinking of Bismarck. Little kids all draw Bismarck. He wasn’t A dog he was THE dog.

Bismarck and Iris on Cannon Beach

Bismarck was all the best things dogs can be: loyal, patient, loving, active, joyful, fearless. He didn’t have dog hangups. He wasnt afraid of fireworks or men or kids or other dogs. He had no interest in canine dominance displays. He could sit, stay, down, touch, and fetch. (He wasn’t so good at heel, quiet, away, or drop it.) He could shake hands and give high fives. He was fastidious. He had exquisite control over his body functions, there were not many “accidents” in Bismarck’s houses. He was always ALWAYS healthy. He was the amazement and terror of our neighborhood in China but all the neighbors came to love him. Once on a walk we startled an old lady and she tried to climb a tree.

Clipping from a newspaper story about Bismarck getting registered in Xiamen

Bismarck loved to meet new people and new dogs. He loved to lie in the sun and methodically chew a log into splinters. He loved to put his head in your lap. And like all the best dogs he knew which people needed extra dog attention (i.e. the “not dog people”) and he gave it to them. He loved us. He loved Jenny and me and our parents and our siblings. After Jenny’s dad moved in with us last year he LOVED Don. (No he loved Don before that. He would mope every time Don left.) And Bismarck loved our kids. He loved to kiss them when their faces were at his level and he always wanted to be involved in their games. He also loved hugs (no he didn’t, he hated hugs. But he endured hugs for our sake.)

Dogs love hugs

Most of all Bismarck loved to MOVE. He loved to run, romp in the snow, and swim. He loved to chase squirrels and birds and sticks and balls. In this way he had a puppy soul for at least eleven years.

Snowy snout

We have a million billion Bismarck stories. Here is literally the first I thought of: When we took Bismarck for the first time to what would become our favorite beach (Arcadia), Bismarck BOLTED from the parking lot, down the trail, onto the beach, and around the headland. He ran barking and hollering full speed into a flotilla of seagulls half a mile or more away. He was gone in a blink, but we knew where he was when the flotilla took at once to the air.

This dog MOVES

There are more Bismarck stories of course. A dog this patient will be made to endure all kinds of adventures.

Bismarck modeling my Astro Boy jacket from China

Last September Bismarck had a huge tumor removed from his abdomen. The prognosis was good but it was a wake up call. He was more than 13 years old — very old for a very big dog. He started to sway a little to one side when he walked, and his back legs were weaker. He couldn’t swim well and didn’t enjoy the snow any more. In the last month 13 years of perfect health finally caught up to him. His legs just stopped working. Masses in the lungs. Shaking muscles. Lost appetite.

Bismarck lying in the sun after his surgery

Yesterday morning we said goodbye to Bismarck. A specialist vet came to help him go. He was excited to meet one last new person. We cried and cried. I am still crying.

Lying with Bismarck on the floor, in his twilight

We woke up yesterday morning in a house with a dog, THE dog, the dog who was always with us. Last night for the first time in almost 14 years we went to bed in a house that isn’t Bismarck’s.

Bismarck wasn’t just a GOOD dog he was the BEST dog.

Bismarck in tall grass, grinning