Bingo is his name-o

Friday, February 13, 2015

Sometime this month (I'm embarrassed to admit that I'm not sure of the exact date) will mark the eighth anniversary of an important day in my life.

On that day eight years ago, I met one of the best friends I have ever had -- a loyal, trusting, loving companion who I can always count on to be there when I need him.

His name is Bingo. That's right, Bingo is his name-o, and he's just about the greatest dog that's ever lived.

Bingo is a border collie. Borders have a reputation as an especially intelligent breed, and my buddy certainly lives up to that. He's a smart guy, and he recognizes more spoken words than some humans I've met. His two favorite words are "biscuit" and "ball," in that order. Third and fourth are "outside" and "ride."

Bingo's tummy tends to be a little weak, so I've learned not to change his dog food and he almost never gets table scraps. The exception is when there are biscuits for breakfast. I just can't deny him that one simple pleasure.

Just say the word "biscuit" and his ears perk up and he begins to stare at you. Let him get an actual glimpse of one, and the party is on. Bingo is a little particular about the way his biscuits are served, though. He likes them torn into bite-sized pieces to keep the work of eating to a minimum. And once he's done with a bite of biscuit, he's immediately ready for another. I'm pretty sure he could consume eight or 12 without a second thought, but I never give him more than two.

Bingo does have a bit of a neurotic personality. When he does something wrong, which is pretty rare, I can always tell. Usually when that happens I will find him hiding under a table, which I suppose goes back to a dog's natural instinct to close up in a den for security.

I say he rarely does something wrong, but that hasn't always been the case. For the first 18 months or so after we met, Bingo's favorite food group was remote controls. He wasn't especially picky -- TV, cable, DVD player; any remote control was good. But he did seem to have a bit of a preference for the cable remote. That led to some pretty interesting scenes at the cable company's office. The rule at the time was that if a customer showed up at the cable company's office with any part of a remote control, the company replaced it free of charge. I'm not sure how many times I showed up with a half of a chewed-up remote to get a replacement, but it was often enough that the ladies in the office started to roll their eyes when they saw me coming. I promise, I really did try and remember to always put the remote on a shelf or somewhere out of Bingo's reach, but accidents happen.

Of course, that was a long time ago. Bingo hasn't eaten a remote control in years, and I admire him for kicking the habit.

One area where Bingo seems to differ a bit from other borders is in his lack of need for physical activity. Border collies are bred for herding and many of them have such a strong herding instinct that they will even try and herd human children. Even those who aren't habitual herders typically need a lot of physical activity. Not Bingo, though. He's perfectly content to spend all day snoozing, curled up in a ball on my bed, on the girlfriend's couch (we're working on that), or even on the floor. Heck, any place is a great place for a nap, right?

One thing Bingo almost never does is bark. In fact, his bark is so infrequent that it usually comes as a big surprise when he lets one loose. This, too, might be a border collie characteristic, although I've heard anecdotes of some borders being big-time barkers. At any rate, I'm glad Bingo isn't one of them.

That doesn't mean Bingo doesn't like to play. He especially loves to play-fight. I usually start it by pushing him just a little bit, or grabbing at one of his legs. Then he will join in and try to "bite" me, although he's always careful not to actually nip me too hard. I do get the occasional stray scratch, but it's all in good fun. And once I've had my fill of play-fighting, all I have to say is "all done!" and he instantly stops and lets me pet him.

After eight years, we've reached the point where Bingo is older than me, in dog years at least. The good news is that borders can sometimes live up to 17 years, and my buddy is still in pretty good health.

Maybe, if I'm very blessed, I'll get to spend another eight years with my dear friend.

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Scott Loftis is managing editor for Carroll County Newspapers.