Farewell tour: Over his final days, Bentley takes care of his bucket list

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 10, 2018

SALISBURY — It sounds like something out of a children’s book, but Jacqueline Brown decided to make last Friday “Bentley Gets a Job” day.

It represented the latest thing on a long bucket list Brown had created months ago for her ailing dog, Bentley, who probably has only a couple of more weeks to live.

Bentley climbed into Brown’s Jeep and for much of Friday they randomly stopped at local businesses and job sites just so Bentley could get out and meet people — maybe even act like he was working sometimes.

The duo met hairdressers, sanitation crews, mailmen, law enforcement officers, rescue personnel, firefighters, attorneys, veterinarians and car washers. He got to ride a Concord firetruck — a big item on the bucket list.

Bentley hopped on a lawn mower at Outdoor Power Equipment. He posed with the man in the Coca-Cola delivery truck. He met FedEx and UPS guys.

“It seemed like every place we went to, he was smiling,” Brown says.

And people smiled back. Bentley has that effect on folks.

A tumor on Bentley’s left shoulder was removed about a year ago, but it returned within six weeks. Since then, the cancer has metastasized and is invading him internally, according to X-rays.

Meanwhile, on the outside of his body, the tumor has been eating away at muscle mass, “so I don’t let him jump and risk dislocating his shoulder,” Brown says.

“In the last two months,” she adds, “it has grown aggressively.”

The time is approaching in coming weeks when the growing cancer inside Bentley’s body will press against his lungs and make breathing difficult. Brown thinks it will be evident when it’s time for Bentley to be put to sleep.

“The last gracious thing to do for your animal is to know enough is enough,” she says. “For now, he’s a very happy dog. We’ve just been enjoying every single day.”

This bucket list thing started late last year with Brown and Bentley driving to the mountains, stopping at a tree farm and choosing a Christmas tree.

“We decided that was the one because he peed on it,” Brown recalls, calling up one of the countless pictures of their adventures on her cellphone.

Brown, who works full time at South Rowan Animal Hospital, then sat down and wrote out a bucket list of things she wanted to do with or for Bentley before he died.

“There were at least three dozen things,” she says. “Some were little, some were huge.”

Many items involved people food, something that Brown had never allowed Bentley to have, just because it’s not great for dogs. So in recent months, Bentley has licked his first ice cream cone from Dairy Queen and eaten his first Happy Meal from McDonald’s.

At Starbucks, Bentley was served a puppuccino, a drink that’s mostly whipped cream.

He had his first hot dog, veggie burger and turkey burger. He has gone wheeling in Brown’s Jeep in the Uwharrie Mountains and in the high country around Boone.

Not too long ago, they also traveled to Carolina Beach so Bentley could swim in the ocean.

“He didn’t even wait,” Brown says. “He said, ‘All right, I’m in.'”

Going on 13 years old, Bentley is a golden retriever-chow mix but leans more toward the retriever side. He loves people, and his favorite thing is hanging his head out the window of Brown’s Jeep.

As dogs go, he’s a good one, and Brown wanted him to leave this world having done a lot of things.

“To me, it was about giving back to a dog who’s given me so much joy,” she says.

When Bentley and his sister, Mercedes, were about 6 months old, Brown and her son adopted them from a shelter. Mercedes went to Brown; Bentley, to her son. But Bentley later got into a serious fight with her son’s German shepherd. After his recovery, Bentley stayed permanently with Brown, and he has been a devoted companion since 2011.

“Technically, I’m his grandma,” Brown says.

Bentley loved being reunited with his sister, and he mourned Mercedes’ death last year from a tumor on her spleen. Bentley and Brown’s other dog, Oreo, also are good friends.

After their “Bentley Gets a Job” day, two big things remained on the dog’s bucket list — a ride in a police car and a photograph of Bentley with a Bentley luxury car.

Salisbury police Officer J.N. Wilson provided the patrol car ride. A Bentley salesman in Charlotte had serious reservations about having Bentley as a guest and told Brown, “I’m not really keen on putting a dog in a $360,000 car.”

But a Bentley location in High Point has invited Brown and Bentley for a photo opportunity. Brown is taking a blanket in case they allow Bentley inside the car.

Otherwise, the pair will continue taking one day at a time. Brown and Bentley plan to attend a cookout this weekend at her son’s house.

Jacqueline knows what’s on the menu.

“A steak for me, a steak for Bentley,” she says.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263 or mark.wineka@salisburypost.com.