Banh Mi was rescued by Buffalo Animal Control after a downstairs neighbor called to complain that the upstairs neighbor was leaving their dog in the basement, all day and everyday. After a second negligence complaint, this adorable 5-6 year old pork-bellied pig bull was on her way to the downtown Animal Shelter, and that much closer to my heart.
This backstory comes directly from the officer on duty at 380 Oak Street. I’m familiar with the place, most notably from a weekend stint by a pup of a queen of a bitch named Isis about 17 years earlier. Time travel to 2018 into 2019 and I’ve finished grieving the loss of that amazing 16 year old, so Kara and I are regularly visiting the shelter, looking for a friendly dog to co-adopt.
We met a newsworthy pup named Montana a few weeks back and my affinity for that state really looked good for the Big Sky Country of a shepherd as we entered on a weekday afternoon in March. But of course, you don’t choose the dog, the dog chooses you. We arrive to find only three cops and zero volunteers on-site yet; learning that only the volunteers handle the meeting and greeting of furry friends. It gave us plenty of time to walk up and down the cell blocks, fill out adoption applications, and get to know the officers working that day.
I take the sad stroll up and down the aisles and wish I could take them all. A few stand out as cutie pies – and of course there’s the lovely Montana barking up a storm… fast forward to a few volunteers arriving and we’re meeting and greeting in the socializing room. Meeting Montana. Meeting a big headed pittie named something non descript. Scrambling around with a young puppy we knew we couldn’t handle (but sure was fun). After 3 dogs we kinda like, a bell goes off in the woman-who-is-donating-her-time’s head and she brings in a short fat waddling little pit mix who looks up at me with the most brilliant smile. She is into me and I am into her. Immediately, we know it’s time to take Montana and this couch sausage formerly known Princess out on a walk and get to know these girls a little more.
The Big Sky Shepherd comes out first and wants to smell trees and rock and bushes. The one soon to be known as Banh Mi emerges second – all flat-footed and stout; some sort of cute, hog-shaped creature moving like how a penguin on all fours might. She proceeds to urinate for three straight minutes, then poop a human sized pile shortly thereafter. Then repeat. Seriously. The little piglet appears to lose 5 pounds in the process and now she isn’t really fat, she’s just big boneded. We walk up the block a bit and Montana just wants to climb up and hump Banh Mi. Like hardcore dominate this bitch shit. Brushing it all off, Banh Mi couldn’t give a flying fuck one way or the other – she’s happy to be outside and living her best life. She’s not about that piss and shit in your own cage life and she seems to understand that everything here is roses compared to that fucking basement. She made the choice for us.
Much melted hearts later and I get to have the best friend one could imagine for the next 19 months. Banh Mi turns out to be unbelievably well trained and its clear her story goes much further back than being trapped in a basement. She was just looking for the right crew to fall in with. She loves to love to love, snuggling up at any given moment with subtle grunts and nudges. Unless running wild and doing total summersaults in the grass before flipping on her back for cherished belly rubs. Her snoring is adorably relaxing and I can’t sleep through my own damn snoring.
Every single living thing that meets Banh Mi is overwhelmed with her, even in pandemic times. Complete and total strangers of every age, background and approach (quite literally at least one on every walk or hike we’ve gone on) goes out of their way to compliment or greet her. People call out from their car, asking whether they can breed our dogs. Little kids wanna know if they can pet the puppy. Neighborhood feral cats and skunks live in peace with her as she follows me on leash-less city walks. The humans who really get to know her can’t help but to fall in love the same way I have.
A year or so in and my bestie is in the best shape of her life, jogging miles with me and showing better and better blood work results. This past Spring a tumor starts growing on her underside. Come Summer and she endures a mastectomy at the age 6 or 7; then biopsies show an aggressive metastatic carcinoma spreading into her leg and groin. Followed up by two months of anti-inflammatories and chemotherapy as we fight to preserve our very best lives together. Drew and I take her out in the canoe. Candice and I take her to Acadia for lobster and sunrise on the ocean. Banh Mi and I fight together but I feel so fucking powerless and her condition doesn’t improve. The vet calls off the chemotherapy and we begin comfort care as her pain increases and her mobility decreases. After having gone through a very difficult time with Isis just 28 months earlier, Kara and I can’t draw out her discomfort and suffering any longer. As I type these words the hours count until the vet makes a house call and this little piglet takes her place in the heavenly cosmos. The 1st day of November in the year of 2020. Ice and rain pound the driveway and roof. Her favorite Otis Redding record crackles out in celestial comfort of both of us.
Banh Mi. Previously known as Princess. Also known as The Pork-Bellied Pig Bull. Piglet. Piggie. Little Fat Butt. Tender Loin. Pauly Snore. Couch Sausage. Becky With The Good Hair. Velvet Keister. I love this living creature so much and all I have are these words and a lifetime of memories gained in our nineteen wondrous months together. Her light shines so brightly that recounting all of the stories might fill a book penned by several authors. But ask about the story of Banh Mi sometime. Ask me or anyone who knows her and we’ll no doubt tell you a story about a canine companion with a golden smile so amazingly full of love and happiness that it’ll only end in overwhelming tears of joy.