Good Dog, Bela

Dear Bela was a great pal. Before Aurelia and James were born, Bela and I would roam the East Bay hills, climbing a ridge in late afternoon, his yellow fur blending with the golden oat grass. Bela loved to “hunt.” He’d work a hill, banking and wheeling back and forth, in a perfect zig-zag pattern until he scared up a rabbit. Then, the two of them would streak off at top speed, covering great distances while I stood and basked in my animal friend’s joy. Once, in Tilden, I heard a tremendous crashing in the woods and out bounded a great buck, with Bela right behind him. I know I shouldn’t have let Bela do it, but it was exciting.
At Pt. Reyes, Bela would chase shorebirds for hours up and down the long beach. His body stretched out in full stride, his chest surging against the waves, his face full of concentration. Every once in awhile Bela would come check on us, which meant shaking all over us. “Bela, NO!” we’d yell. We could never tire that dog out, but after his first day at the beach, he had to be helped into the car!
I’ll always remember how considerate Bela was. When we took him camping, he’d guard our campsite, but when it came time to sleep, he’d come into the tent and curl up in a tight ball, not making a peep until morning when we were ready to go out! He really tried to do what we wanted him to do.
When I was pregnant, I trained him to wait at the top of the stairs (or the bottom) while I was on them. He’d stare at me eagerly, his tail whirling in its circular wag, but he’d never set foot on the stairs until I reached the bottom. Then, he’d come gallomping down, all excitement and readiness! For what? To go for a walk, of course.
Bela never stopped hoping that each time we went out, we’d take him along. As soon as shoes were being put on, Bela would jump up and stare at us, his face all goofy and happy. Then, at the gate, he’d jump up and do pirouettes in the air, spinning his body around to do full rotations! I even got him to do this whenever he was jumping for a ball; it was so amazing! But, if we left without him, he’d stick his nose through the hole in the gate, as if he could learn something about where we were going.
When I think of Bela, I remember his beauty, his affection, his great intelligence. Sitting on the porch next to him, I’d feel his nose nudging under my arm so he could get me to hug him. Bela could learn anything: in late life, when he was deaf, we taught him to obey hand signals. I remember Bela peering around the kitchen door, I remember Bela chewing his bone whenever we danced, I remember Bela sneezing with happiness whenever he was about to go for a walk. Bela, I’ll always wish I could have given you more; you were a heck of a dog! Thanks, Bela. Good boy!