There are human beings, and then there are dogs, but there are also dogs who are human beings. Every dog’s life can be a book. But not all of them can be a heroic epic. A Hero of the Heart. That was my Biko.
Biko did not save only my life, but saved hundreds
His story started as a Christmas present to 6 kids….. they hurt him and treated him like a toy. His reaction to this was telling and revealed how special he was. He didn’t bite or scratch. But, he was obviously confused with this poor treatment and stopped eating… The buyer immediately took him back and asked another puppy that was not so sensitive…
The Breeder then decided to put the puppy sleep. But, as a last resort before doing this, he put out a newspaper announcement to see if anyone wanted a “defective puppy,” just in case!
It was 2005 and I was looking for a puppy. What does “defective” mean? I asked. The answer was he was too sensitive and had stopped eating.
My heart told me to that he was my dog, but how little I knew at that time that he would become not only my heart, but the heart of so many others.
They flew him from New York to Houston where I live. I still remember the day I picked him up from airport. A white fluff and three black dots (his eyes and nose): A cute cockapoo… 3 months old! During our long drive back home, I gave two promises to him: I will love you forever, I will never leave you until your last breath!
Then I asked…. What about your name? What should it be? I was reading a book at the time about an African hero, Steve Biko’s life… I was so impressed with his personality and achievements.…
Then I said ‘your name should be Biko… He looked at me immediately when he heard the name first time. “That was it,” I said, “your name is Steve Biko!”
The first thing he did when we arrived home was eat! Second thing he did was to ring the hanging bell on the kitchen door when he needed to go outside!
A smart ordinary puppy at the first glance. But the coming days showed much more than cuteness. During puppy training school, Biko was learning every trick in one showing and never forgetting.
Perhaps one of the proudest moments for me was when he attended a greyhound race. Being from Europe, I had never seen such a thing. There were skinny greyhound puppies all about, with their owners in hats and nice dresses, and drinking mint juleps. Here was I, in my jeans with my fluffy dog! Despite the smirks and comments, Biko went on to chase the bunny down and win the race, ears flying in the breeze! His feat made the newspaper, to the shock and awe of all! J
Biko was also my protector. One night he woke me up at 3am when 3 armed people were about to enter my house. I called the police and we both were saved…Extra treats for him that day!
One day he revealed his unbelievable talent of diagnosing pain by smelling the breath of a human being. He could tell if a child is crying because of boredom or pain. With the suggestion of a nurse friend, he started to work with cancer patient toddlers. He was an official therapy dog for them. He worked almost with 100 children, and let the nurses know which were experiencing pain. As for his pain, the children pulled his ears, nose, and tongue…treating him like a toy just as his first owners. But he never bit or scratched them. Instead, his way of saying ‘stop’ was to lick them! All through his life, licking was what he did to stop any bad done to him. And by the way, if for any reason one yelled towards him, he would come lovingly to apologize, never leaving before receiving a petting hand.
He earned money while he was serving children. All his income went directly to ASPCA… He saved the life of 723 dogs!
He was also involved in my love life, and picked my husband! Frankly, he didn’t like any of the men he met before Bryant, and made his disdain known with a low growl. But, one day Bryant stopped by the house. He was working with me on something and had some papers for me to sign. Biko did not react when I asked him to stay for dinner. After dinner, I could see Bryant was tired and he talked to me while he laid on the floor. Biko came over and snuggled with him and Bryant put his arm around him and fell asleep. I just sat there in awe and fell in love with both of them.
He was the only dog that I know which was allowed to come to my office at NASA while I was working in weekends!
When I left NASA, he flew to Turkey with me for four years and helped me take care of my sick dad. He never left my father’s bed side, and always let me know when he needed me.
He was there at my wedding…the only dog welcomed on the dance floor, and form that day forward he loved both of us.
He came back to The States after my marriage and started a family life by having a sister name Dixie…
Unfortunately, Biko has not received same genuine approach from some humans. He experience with some vets before our current family vet was not good, and I am sure they caused him pain and shortened his life. They said he had an ACL problem when it was actually a back issue. But, a smart and good professor at Texas A&M fixed him and I patiently worked with him to walk again. It was too hard for his 35 pound body, but not hard enough to stop his loving heart. He loved to life because he loved us!
Then Hurricane Harvey hit. We were flooded and lost our house. I remember my husband carrying him through the muck and water, a big fluff who wanted to be with us. He stayed first with us in a friends’ house for a month, learning to deal with cats, and then 2 months in a tiny hotel room learning to live with limited everything. He never barked during this time!
After that we came back our home. He was old…His legs were no longer carrying him well, but he still kept going. Looking into my eyes waving his pompom tail, telling I will stay as long as I can mom….
Then it began…
We had seen it coming, and he had always had digestive issues, but nothing like this. We always knew when he was really sick because he would go to Bryant, and seek solace. His daddy was carrying him in and out in his arms, and sleeping on the floor with him. We could see the pain his eyes. We think he was telling, “I am here to serve not to be served!!!” He stopped eating and drinking totally… he had tremendous pain. And according to the vet, he had lymphoma and would never get better. He was ready to go…but I was not ready to let him go!!! Never!
But more than love, I felt respect for my human dog…
We called a vet which performs home service for sending dogs to heaven… I was so against injecting a chemical to a pet in the beginning…I thought it is murder! However, I could see that he will keep suffering much longer and would get worse if I would not… He knew when the vets arrived! He came closer, looked at me, and put his head and paws on me softly to say it’s alright….I thought my heart would explode! Sedative was injected…and then the second one… It took couple of minutes to stop that loving heart… I could not stop crying!!! My baby!!! Biko!!! A hero! A pure love… Good bye! Your only small part left and my big part went with you…..He now lives in my heart.
What an amazing coincidence that my Biko, named after a great man who suffered for freedom, died on the same day the funeral of George Floyd was held, June 9, 2020… another man who felt so much pain, yet became a symbol of freedom…God Bless them all for their pain, and while we may cry, it was their dignity in the face of pain that gives us all hope.