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Guest column: Biscoe remembered

By Ainslie Perlmutt

Biscoe was no hero. He was just a dog, a gentle, ragged Brittany Spaniel who stumbled into my life ten years ago. My parents found him on the interstate outside the small town of Biscoe, North Carolina. He walked with a slant and his clipped tail wagged furiously whenever he saw a friendly face.

From the start, his life wasn’t perfect. Stricken with heartworm, his first days in our home didn’t go beyond the walls of our kitchen. Biscoe didn’t mind. As the years passed, his eyes marbleized to a cloudy blue and his life turned to darkness. His hearing disappeared and after an emergency tracheotomy his bark turned to a muffled woof. But Biscoe happily trudged on. Over time, he taught me that obstacles were to be overcome, that when asthma slowed me on the soccer field, I kept playing. Or when a judge gave my Odyssey of the Mind team an unfair point reduction, we kept competing.

Biscoe was a hunting dog without hunting instincts, yelping when he stepped on sharp twigs. But he loved to swim. His ears perked up as his paws first dipped into the water’s edge. Every chance he got, he’d follow my mother’s kayak, his nose navigating just above the water. A few years ago, all of that changed. Biscoe’s larynx had paralyzed, forcing him to gasp for air. After the surgery, Biscoe breathed through a hole in his neck, the size of a quarter. Swimming was no longer an option. He was already fifteen and his days were spent mostly sleeping. Now he was deaf and blind, his once magnificent bark muted. Biscoe didn’t mind. He still had his nose; smell was his GPS. And when my father carried him into the back yard, he’d rally like a puppy and proudly prance off wherever his nose took him.

I have grown up around dogs, most of them rescued like Biscoe. They have come and gone, always leaving a paw print on my life. But Biscoe was different. His needs were simple, happy with the occasional belly rub and his nightly meal. When the other dogs were in our faces, Biscoe was off in the corner sleeping, waiting patiently for his chance. He played a paternal figure. He was never annoyed when our rambunctious Golden Retriever, Caki, nipped at his ears wanting to play, or when Clancy, our wiry-haired, hole-digging terrier, growled, protecting his precious bone. From Biscoe I learned to appreciate the underdog: Everyone has a purpose and a contribution to make to society. Biscoe never got the attention he deserved, but he knew he was loved.

Last summer, I was at Virginia Commonwealth University in an intensive art program, when my father called. The sadness in his voice told me all I needed to know: Biscoe had passed away. Tears flowed, as I took a journey through memories of my beloved dog. Then I smiled, knowing that wherever death took Biscoe, he went with that noble, broken-tooth smile I always loved.

He will always have a spot on our family bench. No, he wasn’t the typical hero, but he was my hero. Biscoe has inspired me to confront problems in life with strong determination, purpose, and a smile.

(Ainslie Perlmutt, of Charlotte, N.C., is an incoming freshman at the University of North Carolina. She wrote this essay as part of her college application. The painting of Biscoe is also by her.)


Comment from Sue
Time August 19, 2010 at 8:01 am

Such a lovely, well written, tribute. Brava! I’d say more but I have to go find some more kleenex and hug my dogs.

Comment from Sam
Time August 19, 2010 at 9:29 am

What a lovely tribute and beautiful painting.


Comment from Starla
Time August 19, 2010 at 11:07 am

Beautiful..sniff…sniff…Simply beautiful & very touching..sniff..sniff …

Comment from Melissa
Time August 19, 2010 at 3:06 pm

What a great tribute! I shouldn’t have read this at work, now I need to wipe the mascara that is running down my cheeks 🙂