Bentley was the answer to a sixth-grader's dreams. He was a confidant, a play pal, someone to talk to late at night. He was never judgmental, always loyal: someone who would definitely sneak downstairs with you for a late-night snack, and one who would fight for space on the bed with you — covers and all. In short, he was my best friend. Bentley was a godsend who arrived at my door at what just happened to be three days before my twelfth birthday. Bentley was a Dalmatian.
He had an extremely square head for a Dalmatian and a deep, broad chest. And of course he had a tremendous number of spots. He had one large circle around his eye. My grandmother used to say to him, “Bentley, you smudged your mascara again.” With his red collar and wonderful, bouncy gait, he was what every child envisioned a Dalmatian to be. He loved attention, food, sleeping, and running.
My family and I have many great memories of Bentley. There was the Saturday when the entire family went food shopping and left him alone in one room. I can proudly say that he did not go to the bathroom while were gone at all. Instead, he rewarded us by tearing up the entire kitchen floor. Then there was the time we came home and the kitchen table looked like the Titanic going down to its watery grave — he had gnawed one of the legs entirely off. There was also the time my parents were entertaining out-of-town clients: During the dinner, Bentley clawed his way into the pantry and ate a whole cake, as well as assorted pastries. I remember the shriek my mother gave when she found out. I flew down the stairs only to find her chasing the dog around the table, his face covered in chocolate. He thought it was a game.
Bentley didn't only do naughty things, of course. There was the time he protected my little brother from a German Shepherd who had roamed into our yard. He loved to sleep near the fire and insisted on lying on the living room floor in the middle of every holiday. I even took Bentley to college with me one semester, where he kept me warm in my poorly heated room in the winter, attended many tennis matches and baseball games, and became a well-known personality on campus.
Every family who has had a dog has these same types of stories and memories. While dogs come in a variety of physical packages, they are all big where it counts — personality. In the character department, they are all colossal. People who are lucky enough to open up their lives and let in a friend as true and loving as a dog find a bond that transcends the verbal. It does not have the intimacy of a human relationship, but it doesn't have its deceits and disappointments, either. Dogs do not know how to lie. There is something in the magically expressive eyes of a dog that is difficult to explain to someone who does not understand. If you have a dog, you already know what I mean. If you're thinking of getting one, you're in for the experience of a lifetime.
It would be nice if dogs didn't require instruction booklets, but they do. There are lots of things that you need to know, not only for your dog's sake, but to strengthen the bond between you. Training is key, and that's why Amy Ammen wrote the training chapters. She's an amazing trainer who has trained countless pets privately and in groups. She has trained dogs in each of the AKC Groups to high-level obedience trial titles.
Dog owners need to know about their breed's histories and traits, grooming requirements, nutritional needs, basic healthcare, how to prepare their home and family for a dog, and much more. I am lucky to have met many dog professionals in my life since I lost Bentley. Thanks to them I understand that dog ownership is more than just feeding an animal and taking him to the vet when he's sick. It's more than just enjoying the unconditional love dogs give. It's about being partners as well as friends.
May your life with your dog give you as much joy on a daily basis as mine have for me, and may this book help you give your dog everything he needs.