Sometimes in Asia, dogs have the run of the town. They don’t really have dog catchers like in the West. Many consider it cruel to neuter pets. I mean, lots of homeless cats and dogs, no animal control to catch them, let them roam the streets and starve, get hit, or get attacked by other stray animals—so much more “humane” than neutering pets, right?
That’s the world in which Bogo and I met. I named him “Bogo” for this article because, frankly, he didn’t have a name. “Bo” is a manly name for “love” and “go” sounds like the Mandarin word for “dog”. The name sounds right for an Asian pet. So, this is a story about Bogo, the black mutt who lived on the streets in Asia.
I first noticed him at local convenience shops. He was young and, for whatever reason, never got acquainted with the other dogs. He had no pack. Most street dogs have at least one dog friend, usually a pack of three or even twenty. Sometimes they roam the streets at night, dogs of every breed and size. It’s almost like a dog-lover’s movie.
Bogo never ran with any of those packs. He was always alone, yet somehow happy.
He was skinny. His ribs were pronounced. He was timid, yet not sorry for existing. When I saw him sleeping on the floor of the convenience shop, I had seen him once before, perhaps. But, that was the first time that we really got acquainted.
In Asia, dogs run in and out of convenience shops all the time. Don’t get me started on health code. A dog in a convenience shop is cleaner than most outdoor food vendors. Besides, the germs strengthen the immune system. I never heard of anyone getting sick from a dog like Bogo. But, this was the first time I ever saw a dog sleeping inside a convenience store.
Maybe there just wasn’t a safe place for him in the streets. The other packs probably chased him away. Or, maybe he was smart and liked the air conditioner for sleeping during the tropical summer. Maybe the other dogs didn’t like him because he was the only canine with a luxury dog’s taste for air conditioning.
Bogo seemed to gel well with humans.
After about six months, some things began to change with Bogo. I wouldn’t only see him on the street at a distance anymore. He began to get friendly. In fact one time, he let me pet him! That’s not normal for a dog who didn’t grow up in a home.
He didn’t have the best etiquette. He’d jump up on me. If I told him to get down, he thought I was either trying to play or hurt him. He was always wild at heart, even though he preferred the company of humans. Bogo was a “spicy-sweet”, just as the Taiwanese like their sauce.
Not long after he nosed me and let me pet him, Bogo started following me around. One night, I was at a BBQ with the neighbors when Bogo crashed the party. He was enamored by the fact that everyone was eating, but he rejected the food we gave him!
I finally tossed him a piece of toast. He picked it up, tried to bite it, then dropped it, uninterested. “You have to teach the dog by example,” I said to one of the party guests. I scooped up the toast Bogo had dropped in the road, took a big bite out of it, chomped it down, then threw the rest back at Bogo. Bogo stared at me in awe, then picked it up, and ate the thing whole! The Asian party guests were in shock. You mean that a dog can understand humans?
That’s the world in which Bogo and I met.
Of course a dog can understand humans. But, Bogo loved humans. So, he started to play bite with me. That sent the party guests on a whole new learning curve about dogs. They couldn’t believe the dog was “biting” me, yet I wasn’t bleeding.
Actually, Bogo did break the skin just a little on the back of my hand. But, it wasn’t anything big. My hands smelled like dog for two days after that. He’d play too rough. When I smacked him for play biting too hard, he snapped back as if he didn’t understand why I had just gently smacked his face. Bogo was always wild at heart, a “spicy-sweet” who loved humans.
A few days later, I had to call the police to report a hit-and-run in the parking lot. I had the plate number, hehehe. When the police showed up, so did Bogo the friendly dog. “New chew friend!” he must have thought to himself as he started play biting one of the young officer’s hands. The police were quite entertained by Bogo, but not as much as Bogo was enthralled by them. I mean, think of it—more humans who love him.
In the days that followed, Bogo became more and more friendly in the neighborhood. He’d walk right in and out of the local convenience shops, almost as if he was exercising his status to use the automatic door like the “rest” of the humans. Everyone got acquainted with him. He was the friendly local dog.
I’d see Bogo 100 meters down the street and call to him. He’d come bounding to chase me on my motorcycle, all the way home. Quick play bite, a few words of wisdom that he probably couldn’t understand beyond, “He’s talking to me!” then I’d step inside and close the front door. The last time I remember him doing that, he smiled at me ear to ear and didn’t even try to play bite. It was almost as if he just wanted to say, “I get it. You make sense to me. We can play, but I don’t have to. I get it. Thank you. I’m so happy that you helped me get it.”
I couldn’t have adopted him because he was wild at heart. He wouldn’t be happy penned up in a small, Asian house. The first time he went inside, he might have gotten scared and then, bye bye, Bogo!
It was almost prophetic, like the foreshadowing of a novel. At least two daily devotionals from different books were about the death of a loved one. It was too depressing for me. Those devotionals had a positive and encouraging tone—they’ll be okay, God is near to us in such times, do not despair… But, I still put down those articles while reading because I just didn’t want to think about death. What relevance did it have to that particular week, anyway? Why was I getting the “death is natural, don’t be sad” message from so many directions?
Then, it happened. I was walking to a local convenience shop and I saw several neighbors out on the street. A dog had been hit in the road. The body was gone by the time I arrived on the scene. It was a small black dog. It made a big, bloody mess. One of the local shop owners had purchased several liters of bottled drinking water to wash the blood out of the street. It left a stain that is still there today.
At first, I wasn’t sure if it was Bogo or not. But, he didn’t show up the next day or the next after that. Weeks went by and no Bogo. Bogo went missing after a dog died having his description. I know how put two and two together.
I don’t get my teaching of the afterlife from myself nor do I get it from other people who get it from themselves. I get my teaching of the afterlife from the Bible. And, I’ve seen quite good Bible-based evidence that pets might be in Heaven. Animals have emotions which are intangible, a “spirit”; but they are not sentient, so they have no soul. Just as our life lessons and friendships endure, the spirits of animals we love and train will, in all likelihood, see us again.
I’m not so sure that all dogs go to Heaven, only the dogs with big hearts, who loved because they were loved.
Bogo was a homeless dog, but he wasn’t friendless and he isn’t homeless anymore.
Why did all that happen? Why did a large puppy—Bogo was no more than a year old—suddenly drop in, dog-friendless, sleeping on our floors, befriending everyone, then get run over on a street where dogs never even get bumped? I miss Bogo annoying me every time I arrive at my front door. Why did all that happen?
Did our community not love enough? Did we need a love to lose so we might love each other a little more?
I can’t believe we did something wrong to not prevent Bogo’s death, especially with all those “don’t despair when loved ones die” messages I kept getting the days before Bogo departed. A dog catcher isn’t the answer since we never would have known Bogo. I can’t blame the driver since Bogo is jet black and so is the pavement. Dogs sleep in the road all the time in that neighborhood and never, ever get hit, making this even more unusual.
I suppose I could blame the other dogs for making him sleep in the road instead of letting him sleep with them, but had he not been excommunicated from “Dogianity” I might have never gotten to know him. None of us would.
Sometimes I think there is a rule about life—that we’re not allowed to be completely happy. Once people become truly free and happy, they die and then all the rest of us decide to be happier like they were. Maybe it’s that once we finish learning it’s time for us to die, which is the same time we become happy and the timing is all just a natural coincidence. Maybe it’s that the world is jealous and tries to kill happy people because happy people are difficult to control. Maybe it’s not always true, it’s just true for some of us—and bogo was one of us whom it was true for. He became the happiest dog in the world, then he died.
This world was unworthy of a dog like Bogo. There was no place for him. Dogs rejected him. He wouldn’t be happy in a home. The streets are dangerous for a dog captivated by every human he sees. It just wouldn’t work. Maybe God saw that once he learned to love and to be loved it was time to call him home. He died with no regrets.
For a few days, the other dogs bugged out. No strays wanted to get close to where Bogo got plowed over. I thought they had moved, but you know how territorial dogs are. After a week, the packs were back. But, they were a little quieter. In fact, since Bogo left, everything has seemed more peaceful. Maybe his spirit really does live on.
He loved humans more than other dogs. His last day was his happiest. One night, he was hit by a car. He died surrounded by friends whose hearts he touched. Neighbors held vigil in the street, giving him a human farewell, just as many Asian funerals take place in the street.
His beautiful life was spicy-sweet.
Somewhere in Asia, a dog with a big heart, a big family, and no home died. He was posthumously named Bogo.