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  • Cheryl Rae Johnson

Before Bentley, There Was Bama

Updated: Sep 28, 2020


As the first Benny Book, based on Holly’s relationship with her miniature dachshund, made its way into reader's hands, someone who knew us well said, “What about Bama?! She was first!”


Indeed she was. Our home in Gadsden, Alabama, was nestled at the base of Lookout Mountain, next to Noccalula Falls. Our driveway was made for sledding when the ice storms laid treacherous paths in early January. No fence lined the slopes we called a backyard so a little puppy could rollick and play. But then we prepared to move to Georgia, and our new home provided the perfect backyard playground for a new puppy.


Aaron was ten, Elise seven, and Holly three when our Alabama neighbors told us their dog was having puppies and we could have first pick. The puppies would be half springer spaniel and half terrier. I really didn’t know what that meant at the time, but that didn't matter. The anticipation of a puppy made it feel like Christmas at the Johnson house! Part of the fun was picking a name. Ideas bounced off the walls. Soon I began hearing: “That’s a boy name and it might be a girl!” “Well we might get a boy.” “Maybe we shouldn’t pick a name until we know for sure.”


Finally, I announced I had the perfect name and it didn’t matter whether the new puppy was a boy or a girl. The puzzled faces of my older kids stared at me, waiting. BAMA, I shouted. She is going to be born in Alabama, and you know how much we love our football. Laughter and screams of delight took over. We had our name!



Before long, the neighbors announced the arrival of a full litter. We raced up the street to look at six adorable puppies. Three were completely covered in chocolate fur. Two were black and white spotted. And then we saw her. A little brown and white fur ball. We loved her instantly. She wasn’t ready to leave her momma, but we claimed her and excitedly started calling her Bama.


Within a few months, Bama made the move with us to Georgia, and we soon saw the blended traits of the terrier and springer spaniel. Bama was a loving, friendly dog, who wanted to explore the world around her. She loved to dig.

She could dig holes like she was hunting for treasure. Her agility made her an excellent escape artist and often sent us on neighborhood chases looking for her.


Within a couple of years, we moved to Texas, and of course, the Alabama dog moved with us. Bama had many more adventures, including a few hurricane evacuations. As adventurous as she was, she traveled well. She always rode on my lap in the front seat, but she slept and never whined or moved from person to person. She just enjoyed the ride.



In October of 2005, my father-in-law got very sick and we knew he would not live. My husband, Jim, was with him and he called saying we needed to come. We had just been in Temple with my father-in-law and returned back home when my husband called us back. The next morning as we prepared to leave, Bama pulled one of her escape artist tricks and began roaming the neighborhood. Catching her was not easy. I found myself in a dilemma. Do I look for her or do I just go? I started looking. Sixty minutes of searching was fast approaching and I was wasting valuable driving time. Still no Bama. I kept looking. I thought to myself, “My children are about to lose their beloved grandfather. I don’t want them to lose their dog at the same time.” I realize many will not understand my thinking, but I still believe I did the right thing. I prayed Bama home. I was about to call a friend to ask her to find Bama for me, when I turned a corner several blocks away and spotted her. Now we could be on our way.



If Bama had lived 2 more months, she would have seen her 18th birthday. Around Thanksgiving 2017, Bama got sick. I took her to our vet, Dr. David Wille. He gave her medicine to help me feel better, not her. Within two weeks, Jim and I had her back in Dr. Wille’s office. Dr. Wille told me that he could keep giving her medicine, but we were just prolonging the inevitable and keeping her in pain. I didn't want Bama in pain, but I didn't want to say good-bye. All three of my children now had their own pets. But Bama belonged to all three of them first. She belonged to the family and she belonged to me.


Through floods of tears, I kissed her bye and told her what a good dog she had been and how much I loved her.


Before Bentley, there was Bama.

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