I told my mom about Champ, and his passing, and she said something very wise. After a brief pause, and then an inquiry as to how Anthony (Champ’s owner/father) was doing, she spoke in explanative consolation.
“I don’t remember where exactly I heard this,” she began, “but I think it’s remarkably true. Dogs live shorter lives than humans. They experience time and life on a quicker scale, because they have an immediate, inherent call to love. For humans, we have to learn to love, and to like, and trust others. It takes us a long time; some people never really even do it. That is less energy spent, less drain on our lives. Dogs start spending that energy from the start. Most of them love right away, without question. That’s why they live shorter lives.*”
Not to taint this tribute with vulgarity, but when my mom dropped that dime of sage”ness” on me, a bullet of emotion went right to the chest. It was perfect. It brought so much clarity to something so sad. And it described Champ perfectly, a dog who loved so much.
“Wow,” I intonated, calmly, and deeply, “that was pretty special, Mom. I’m glad you told me that.”
“I’m your mother, Beau,” I heard the cocky, maternal entitlement return to her voice and my sentiment fly over her head. “Now, talk to me about your savings account and are you still single?”
*I tightened up that quote a lot. The essence was Nancy’s but no one speaks that well.
Champ, in all his quirks—expressions, antics, disdain for doorbells, phobias, etc—loved more than any dog I’ve ever known. If you have seen even a small portion of the recent commemoration from those who knew him best, I think you would tend to agree.
And there were a lot of people who knew him, and knew him well.
Here in Baton Rouge, through Louisiana State University and its baseball program, we are part to a large group, or band, of brothers. Either from local origin, or a decision to move here after college, there are a lot of us.
It is a group that has stayed intact, too, still continuing to grow. And as there are a lot of elements—people and reasons—that have kept us close, there is one thing that rises above all else. One thing that, nine years ago, came into the mix and changed the game. One dude, one dog who loved us from start, named Champ.
Nine years ago, Anthony introduced us to a little Boxer with a slight-to-moderate waddle/underbite. Instantly, as you would expect, he became part of the squad (not trying to sound too bro-ish, but that’s the verbiage Champ preferred).
His assimilation didn’t take long, either.
Anthony, the aforesaid owner, was a baseball player and a leader to our LSU baseball community. Aside from what that literally means, it also infers that he would host get-togethers during the Fall/Winter months when everyone was home, and, as expected, depart during the Summer and Spring. For Champ, this meant time with crew (again, Champ language).
As Champ came into the fold with most of us in our early twenties, “pre-games” were still a thing. Champ was our host. Energy and a little bit of affectionate drool was his vibe. That’s what you got when you came over; instantly upon entrance. If you rang the doorbell you got a little more fervor to start—your fault—but the regression back to the good energy and affectionate drool wasn’t long behind.
It was always here, though, that we came. To Anthony’s house. The home was lovely, sure, and the Italian quartz in his kitchen was appreciated, but we came for Champ.
When it came time for Anthony to depart, volunteers to keep or watch Champ could not be found quicker.
Outside of a little coddling required during inclement weather, there was nothing burdensome about watching Champ. He chilled, and partied, and assumed role as a 75 pound lap dog.
For anyone who was watched another’s pet for an extended period of time, you know that to be flagrantly incongruous to the norm. With Champ, it was only that way.
The dude always loved. And we loved him.
In that love and affection, there were also lessons. We always joked about Champ and his Zen, but reminiscing now we know that, amongst others, to be so true. It’s kind of crazy to think, or even conceptualize that a dog could teach us so much, but that is what he did.
Routed in an un-relenting love for Anthony and for his people, Champ leaves behind legacies for which would all be so prudent to follow. Legacies, over nine years of living, that we aren’t soon to forget.
- Mindful Lens: Being mindful means being present; to both thought and to interaction. It can be very hard to do and we can often revert back to assumption and supposition. When you are mindful, though, you don’t see the world that way. Champ didn’t see the world that way. Every interaction, every trip to the park, every car-ride, every Amazon Prime delivery, was something new. He did everything with energy and excitement, because he was seeing it new, fully present. That was something you felt when you saw him, and you partied with him. Each pet, or bark, or thunder cuddle, was the most important thing to him—because it was what was happening right now—and you felt that. That’s how he saw the world.
- Leaving a Mark: “Oysters” is what we called them. They were produced in both friendship and in prank, and they came in the form of a nice big saliva “oyster” on your pant/dress. We actually used to watch him do this—after five or six years when he no longer could catch us unsuspecting—and would “introduce” himself to new friends… New friend comes over to the house, Champ greets him/her at the door, receives a few head-pats and pets, disarming and letting them get comfortable, circles back five to ten minutes later when the aforementioned guest is distracted and wham, a nice dollop of drool on the pant/dress in a brush-by motion… Some friends get tattoos, some wear matching jewelry, Champ gives you an “oyster.” He leaves his mark: 80 percent friendship, 20 percent prank.
- Host: Champ hosted a lot of events. Movie nights were his thing but he loved Holiday functions, too. A good party got him going. Even in later years in the face of social anxiety (mostly just loud noises and construction) Champ would never miss an opportunity to host or join the squad. He tailgated, also. I don’t think he enjoyed tailgating like he did events more proximal to his home, or more quiet, but it was never about him. Champ was about others. About the boys.
- Consistent, Sprint-Work: Amongst a bevy of other things and attributes, Champ was consistent. In no greater way was this apparent, nor did he exemplify it any better, than in his training. His lean, muscular build was of no mistake. It was intentional. In backyards and at parks near Anthony’s home, he ran. He chased shadows and smells and other dogs he wanted as friends (sprint-work) but always took the time to superset with “shaded” rest. I tried on several occasions to take him jogging with me. And, on several occasions, right around mile 2, Champ shut it down. He stopped. Leash in hand, I looked at him and he looked at me. That was it. Bro, I don’t do this whole long distance thing. It deteriorates muscle mass and is not conducive to my aerobic capacity. ROOF! … So, I took Champ back to the park, where he ran, and chased, and rested. And then he ran again. He was consistent. Sprint-work.
- Resonant Circuitry: The medically/holistically esoteric labeling of “resonant circuitry” is intentional. Basically, it refers to the ability feel and relate to other things and people. Champ was smart as he was in tune with this exact feeling/understanding. When you were excited, or up-beat, Champ was there with some jostling or bally-hoo*. When you were tired, or hungover, he was quick to bring the quiet, even letting you up on his living room sectional. When you were sad, or you’re girlfriend broke up with you and then got married in consecutive days, Champ would motion towards his leash, and the front door, recommending the therapy of a good walk. What you were feeling, Champ knew, and registered. And then he brought whatever it was you needed.
- Loyalty: Dog’s are inherently loyal. We all know this, if we’ve had or owned one before. Champ took it one, or several, steps further. For the first seven years of his life, he was promised a “show” pad; an upscale home to live. Through no fault of his owner, more to the precarious nature of professional sports, Champ was forced to live in several different homes for stretches of time. True to his selfless, loyal nature, he never complained. His temperament never wavered and he never took the turn to negative town. Even recently, when Champ was forced to stay at my home, and the laminate flooring and low ceilings could have made him feel some type of way, that didn’t happen. He managed, more concerned with Anthony and the boys, and fought through less than optimal (guest and master bath renovations, aggressive Vietnamese neighbor) living conditions; never demanding more. It is only fitting that in his final year, Champ got his house, his “show”, waterfront home. Good things happen to good people/dogs.
- Friendship and Diet: Ketosis is all the rage right now. Champ new this. Breakfast, in portion control, at 8 am, with dinner at 6 pm. That is a 14 hour window in between meals. He would do this most days during a seven day week, for nine years. He knew the science and sought health. But, and this is a testament to him as a friend, when you chose to eat in the living room or below table level, he would join you. It was not in accord with his structured diet, but again, friendship was more important. Him taking a few bites of that burger, to reduce your caloric intake, was his thing. Always looking out for the boys. Always.
- Overcoming Fears: For his friends, Champ would challenge anything. Any insecurity, any phobia or fear, he would meet head on, if need be. If one of his friends needed something, or needed his companionship, he was there. Despite a crippling fear of thunder, loud noises, any floor not carpet, or water, Champ was by your side. Towards the end he wasn’t about car-rides, but if you needed him, he was shot-gun before you could get out the door.
- Everybody Love Everybody*: Not to end with some promulgation about equality or “one” love—Champ wouldn’t want me too—but the dude loved everyone. Everyone who came around him ended up loving him. People who didn’t like dogs loved Champ. People who were scared of dogs loved Champ. People who didn’t like getting hair or slobber on their clothes couldn’t help but laugh at the fact he just intentionally “oystered” them, only to then realize they loved Champ. Everyone. There isn’t a greater legacy to leave behind. If a life is measured in love, then it makes sense we call him the O.G.. Champ lived, and loved, the most.
- “Goodwill Hunting” was Champs favorite movie. “Bally-hoo” was one of his favorite lines/words from that movie.
- “Semi-Pro”, also one of his favorite movies.