I met my rescue Australian Shepherd, Banjo, on St.Patrick’s Day, 2006, when he was almost 4 years old. His foster mom brought him to a conformation show where she was showing her own dogs. Even in a room full of perfectly groomed, beautiful show dogs, I I locked eyes with this obesely overweight, red merle with hazel eyes, and immediately fell in love. I thought he was so perfect, I felt like I had found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. There really is such a thing as love at first sight, and it happened that night, for him and for me.
Banjo’s birthday was May 31, and he epitomized the typical dual nature of a Gemini personality. Sometimes he was the gentlest creature in the world, whether snuggled next to me on the sofa, or at night falling asleep with his head on my shoulder, breathing softly in my ear. However, when it approached meal time, he turned into his snarky alter-ego “BamBam” who delivered repeated body slams until his bowl was filled. He loved hikes in the woods, often returning home with cuts and scrapes from crashing through the brush with wild abandon. In the summer at the beach, he was always happiest snoozing on a blanket in the shade of an umbrella as crowds walked by, laughing and commenting that all he needed was a frozen drink to make the picture complete. He was always the ideal playmate for my older Golden Retriever, with whom he bonded instantly. And when my Australian Shepherd puppy, Moon, came home he was the best big brother in the world, something that made me love him even more although I didn’t know that was possible.
He was my first Australian Shepherd and my first agility dog, and because of him, I met many wonderful people who are now my closest of friends. Because of Banjo, and the direction my life went after I got him, I now have Moon and Maui. As anyone who has seen me with or heard me talk about them knows, I do not love them any less than I loved Banjo, I just loved him differently, and he occupied a different place in my heart. I was so in love with this dog, that over the years there were often times I teared up just talking about him, an odd phenomenon many people never understood, but always understood by anyone who loved a dog so deeply. Nowadays, the tears are always near the surface, and flow quickly when I talk about him, even though it has been almost two years since he passed. I guess that is
what is meant by a heart dog. He was the best snuggler and slept nestled in my arms every night that I had him. Every morning when I woke up and saw his sweet face, I fell in love with him all over again. Each day with him was a gift. When I had to say goodbye to him, I felt like I lost a piece of my soul. This made sense since I always thought of him as my soulmate.
After meeting Banjo, I used to think of St. Patrick’s Day as a holiday in his honor. It has not been the same since I lost Banjo, but I now think of it as St. Banjo’s Day, and raise a toast to him, and to all of the other dogs I have come to love because of him. For many years after I got Banjo, on the weekend closest to St. Patrick’s Day, the local Australian Shepherd Club hosted the same breed show at which I met him, and it included an Aussie rescue fundraiser and a parade of rescues. Each year I would return with Banjo, march in the parade, and share a story about how I had met him, how much I loved him, and how he had changed my life. After participating in this parade for 6 years, I just couldn’t figure out a novel way to express my love for Banjo, so I wrote a poem.
I wanted an Aussie and had a rescue dog in mind,
His foster mom said come meet him, I think he might be a real find.
He was way overweight, but I just didn’t care,
All I saw were sweet eyes, and knew we’d make a perfect pair.
He looked a bit out of place with all those champions around,
But my pick for best in show had clearly been found.
We came back the next year, and I was quite proud,
And my thinner red merle clearly won over this crowd.
He’s still taking agility, but we have to take it slow,
He can’t see well, so teeters and dog-walks are both a no-no.
But he can jump, take tunnels and the do the table,
So we’ll keep running for fun, as long as he’s able.
Naps on the beach put a smile on his face,
But sacked out on the sofa is a close second place.
He’s usually a perfect boy, and I almost never get mad,
But occasionally he steals food, it’s the one thing that’s bad.
He can’t walk up stairs, but I carry him up every night,
This winter I was never cold, despite the polar vortex and snow
Because nestled under the covers is where Banjo likes to go
Each night as I listen to his peaceful breathing by my ear,
I am grateful for every minute with this dog I hold so dear.
I love my sweet Banjo from my head to my toes,
He feels the same about me, from his stubby to his nose
Like the name says, this is called the Rescue Show,
But just who rescued whom, I think we all know…
Happy St. Banjo’s Day to my boy in Heaven, and happy St. Patrick’s Day to everyone else.