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The Greatest Catahoula Ever

Avery Bamboo Fajita con Sizzle Lindsley-Hewell was his full name, though we called him all sorts of nicknames over the years.

Fort Linwell Catahoula
Bamboo aka Doozle aka The Dooz aka The Bam Man aka Super Dooz aka You Ready aka Boozer aka Steak & Ham aka Old Blue

I asked the property manager if we could borrow a shovel in the morning. He said yes and was kind enough not to ask any questions. He knew we were staying there because we had a sick pup that needed air conditioning until we could get him on a plane and back to Charlotte. We’d briefly told him our situation when we checked in, why we were there and not at our home at the other end of the island.

He’d likely seen how we had to carry him up and down the stairs and how we had to help him make his way around the grounds to use the bathroom. He’d likely noticed how much energy Bamboo seemed to lose hourly and how these tasks had become more and more difficult over the four days we were there.

The next morning I walked down the stairs, taking our other two pups out to do their business and found the shovel leaned against the wall at the bottom. I took the boys back upstairs, kissed Joey on the cheek and told him to meet me on the beach. I left, shovel in hand, headed toward the ocean. With our flight to Charlotte leaving in a few hours the burial would have to be quick, the opposite of how we'd ever want this to go, the opposite of how we'd want to say goodbye to our oldest pup and dear friend. It was a year ago, October 3rd.

Brick Bay, Roatán

When we thought about making a big move last year our dogs were paramount in our decision process. Where we went, they were going too. We had three boys, Bamboo, Tiki and Wicky. Bam was daddy's boy and by daddy I mean Joey. Some dogs just have that connection with their person. Deep and almost telepathic. For me it was Doc, a beaglish dog who joined my life when I was in college. He was with me for 17 years. Joey knew Doc and was there when I had to let him go. Doc had one brown eye and one blue eye which we referred to as his “Doc eye”.

Joey and I were together for a year or so when I got a call from him, telling me there was a puppy up for adoption at the sandwich shop where he was having lunch. “He has a Doc eye!” he exclaimed.

Bamboo - just a baby! The day we got him...

Come to find out his breed, the Catahoula, is well known for having one or two clear blue eyes. Otherwise they looked very hound-like. They are typically found in and around Louisiana (the State Dog there actually) and are bred for herding and hunting. They are fearless, sometimes to a flaw. They are highly protective and intensely loyal to their person. Bamboo fit all of this to a “T”.

We took him in and took him home, even though the lady that had him said he had a heart murmur and might not live a long life because of it. That probably softened our hearts to him even faster. He entered our home like a lighting bolt, charging around, barking, trying to herd slow moving old Doc around the yard, nipping at his ears and ankles, and running and playing with our other little hound, Tina.

Baby Bamboo, he was Merle at the time, but slowly turned tan as he grew older. My pup of many years Doc is upper left, and Tina upper right. The day Bamboo came into our lives...

His coat was mostly Merle when he was a puppy, another typical trait for a Catahoula, but he grew out of it over the years fading to a tan & white coat. He was smart, too smart for his own good at times. It only took taking him on a couple trips outside to pee and poop before he got it. He listened and learned quickly. Joey was finishing up cosmetology school when we got him and after he graduated and opened his own salon they became inseparable. Bamboo quickly claimed the business as his own, greeting every client, barking through the door at passer-by's, sleeping on the sofa next to any of the clients who'd allow it or in a sunbeam on the floor while they were in the chair. Though he loved the adults at the salon, he wasn't a big fan of the kids. Kids were never really his thing to be honest...nor were cats or possums or squirrels or really anything that could possibly take the attention away from him. Joey and Bamboo went everywhere together. If you knew Joey you knew Bamboo.

At home or at the salon he’d bark through the glass of the doors and windows any time any other dog dared get close. Or even just walk by. Even on the other side of the street. He was fiercely loyal and protective after all, and Joey was as fiercely protective and loyal to him as well. They were absolutely devoted to each other.

Tiki, Joey and Bamboo behind our home in Southend / Wilmore

We moved often, he lived with us in seven different places - houses & condos - six in Charlotte and one in Roatán. Doc passed a couple of years after we brought in Bam and we had to give Tina to my step-dad. She was an escape artist and too much to handle and Bill had all the time and attention to dedicate to her.

Fort Linwell Port Royal Roatán
Joey and Bamboo in our home at 704 in NoDa

In time we adopted two other dogs, Tiki a couple years after Bam and Wicky another year or two after that. We had our pack, and though he wasn’t the strongest or largest, Bamboo was the leader of the canine portion of the family.

Bamboo at our home in NoDa - 2014

When we lined up our move to the island we had to hire a private plane. There was no way we’d be able to put our dogs in crates to then be loaded into the cargo hold of an airliner. A plane that would land in Houston during the summer where our dogs would then be transferred to another plane to then sit on the runway to fly to Roatàn. We’d heard too many horror stories plus our dogs had never been crated. The plans to get them to the island were just as important to us as getting ourselves there.

Fort Linwell Roatan Honduras
Bam on his plane ride to Roatán

With our move we envisioned them living out their last years in paradise. Roaming the woods and jungle behind our new home where we had over 3 acres and no one else in sight. No fences, no leashes. We imagined them taking in all the new sights, smells and creatures. At our home in NoDa, in Charlotte, Bamboo would sit on our deck all night, overlooking the back yard and keeping watch (those damn possums!). We just knew he’d love doing the same with so much more to see. Plus he was a great swimmer, easily gliding in the water with his slightly webbed feet. We couldn't wait to see him have so much freedom.

Fort Linwell Roatan Port Royal Honduras
Bamboo and Tiki, heading to our new home for the first time, and their first time on a boat

We landed and he was fine. He had his first boat experience on the trip to our house, and did just fine. He panted a good bit, but it was hot and we were in the tropics. Everything was fine.

After a week or so we noticed he was slowing down. We assumed the heat was getting to him, we were all working on getting used to it. The pack, the family, would all sit on the deck and enjoy the cool breezes blowing across the water. Things were settling in, generally as we expected they would.

And then he really started slowing down. And not sleeping. He’d toss and turn, moving around trying to get comfortable most of the night. Joey and I started laying with our heads at the end of the bed so we could pet him on his blanket on the floor, at the foot end, trying to comfort him into sleep. As his nights become more restless we did as well. The heat seemed to be hitting him much harder than the rest of us, dogs included. Then he stopped eating.

Fort Linwell Port Royal Roatán
Bamboo, Wicky and Tiki napping during their stay at Fort Linwell

Fort Linwell Port Royal Roatán
Joey and the pups on the deck at Fort Linwell

We had a lot of other things going on that we were struggling with, that's a different story, but he was our priority. We finally decided we had to get him back to Charlotte. The climate wasn’t compromising at all with his 14-year-old self and paradise just wasn't paradise with him so miserable.

Fort Linwell Port Royal Roatán
Bamboo on our deck at Fort Linwell

We scheduled a plane to take us back and moved to the other end of the island to a condo near the airport that had air conditioning. We just had to make it through five more days, we’d been on-island for a month, to get him to our vet in Charlotte. We counted down the days, hour by hour.

Fort Linwell Port Royal Roatán Bamboo
Bamboo and Joey in the condo at Brick Bay, waiting for the day we would fly out and get him back to Charlotte

Unfortunately time and fate didn't work out. While we waited to leave we took Bamboo to the vet's office. They ran bloodwork and did other tests, and I posted this, along with a photo of Joey and Bamboo laying together in the condo, on Facebook;

"Blood work says liver & kidneys are ok, white blood cells indicate bacterial- better news than we expected! First feeling of optimism in a long time...seeing Joey smile for the first time in days".

A couple of hours later the vet changed that news. An x-ray showed us a mass in his lungs. It was cancer. He wouldn't make it through the night.

We'd come so close to getting him home. That countdown made it to just before we could leave and we had to make life's hardest decision to help him finally get some rest, then we'd fly out the next morning, without him. We cried most of the night, holding the other dogs tight and trying to sleep. Though he'd been really sick for a week or two, and we'd seen it worsen, the end was actually very sudden.

Joey looking out over Brick Bay and the beach where we laid Bam to rest

We laid Bamboo to rest at the surfs edge, on a beautiful beach in Brick Bay, under a coconut palm, where he can swim to his hearts delight and watch over the shore. Though it's been a year we still talk about him constantly. We've both had him visit us in our dreams, as realistic as today is right now. If you've had that sort of dream, you understand, if you haven't I wish I could explain. He'll never leave us and we'll never leave him. We fly over his beach every time we come to the island, the landing path goes directly above.

Brick Bay, Roatán

I think about the summer before our move and think about what was growing inside of Bamboo, unbeknownst to all of us. Our carefully laid plans moving step by step through those three or four months. Spending more time at our home, readying it for sale. Our slow steps away from work, handing everything over to our co-workers and business partner, giving ourselves more free time to enjoy Charlotte before we left. Our days and nights were filled with excitement and anticipation, our dreams coming true. August was such a beautiful and carefree month - we spent so much time with ourselves and the dogs, soaking up all we could preparing for a huge life change. It was a wonderful time in our lives. And though the changes we knew about were enormous for us, it turned out to be so much more.

What would it have been like had we known what was coming? I suspect our sadness would have been profound and stifling. We would have likely dreaded each coming day, wondering about his health and worrying about it - were we doing all we could? How much time did we have left? Fretting over Bamboo at every turn, something he would have hated. Would we have cancelled or, at least, postponed our plans? For sure.

Instead we spent so much joyous time together over those months and we took him on a great adventure with us. He saw places he'd never seen, and never seen anything like. He flew on a plane and rode on a boat. He smelled the new smells of the ocean & the jungle and he barked at passing boats, birds and an occasional critter wandering around near the house in the night.

As it was, we lived like we didn't know how little time we had left together, because we didn't. I don't think I'd want it any other way.

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