Disclaimer: I do not own The Dukes of Hazzard, but I wouldn't mind if Bo belonged to me.
Saying Goodbye Is Hard To Do
Seven-year-old Bo Duke tossed his shaggy blonde hair out of his face and clapped his hands. "Come on, Digger! Let's go!" He took off running toward the pond to meet his cousin Luke and the aging terrier ran loyally at his heels. It didn't take long before the little dog was lagging behind.
Bo slowed down and knelt on the dusty ground. "Are you tired, boy?" he asked as he scooped the panting white dog into his arms. Uncle Jesse had explained that Digger was getting old and that's why he didn't play as much as he used to. "Don't worry; I'll carry you so's you can rest," Bo promised. The little boy carefully walked the rest of the way to the pond as the little dog hassled for breath in his arms.
Bo grinned to find his older cousin waiting for him at the small pond with a baited fishing pole. "Hey, Luke!" he greeted cheerfully.
Luke frowned at the sight of Digger. "Bo, maybe you should have left Digger at home. He looks pretty tired."
"I carried him most of the way," Bo protested. "Digger always comes fishing with us."
Luke chewed on his lower lip. Uncle Jesse had confided in him that Digger probably wouldn't be with them much longer. The poor dog was becoming arthritic and had a hard time getting up in the mornings. He tired easily these days and spent the afternoons panting heavily in the coolest spot he could find. Luke worried how the little dog's death would affect his younger cousin.
Bo settled Digger in the soft grass in the shade of a large tree and picked up his fishing pole. The two boys often fished together and had a great time, and this afternoon was no different. They managed to catch enough fish for supper. Luke carried their string of fish home while Bo cradled Digger in his arms. The poor dog continued to hassle for breath even after lying in the shade all afternoon.
That evening after supper and baths, Uncle Jesse tucked Bo and Digger into bed. The little dog curled up at the foot of Bo's bed every night. "Now, Bo," Jesse began hesitantly, "you know Digger is old."
"I know, Uncle Jesse," Bo yawned. "That's why I carried him to the pond today." He rubbed at his eyes sleepily.
"Bo," Jesse sighed, "Digger hasn't been hisself lately. I don't think the old fella is feeling that well. There comes a time when the Good Lord calls all of us home to heaven, even animals."
Bo narrowed his eyes at his uncle as Jesse's words sunk in. "I'm gonna take good care of him, Uncle Jesse. He's gonna live a long, long time even if he's old 'cause I love him."
"I wish it worked that way, Bo," Jesse sighed sadly.
Bo frowned and turned over in bed, burying his face beneath the covers as he cuddled his teddy bear close. He felt Jesse squeeze his shoulder and press a kiss into his hair before he left the room and turned out the lights.
Bo sniffled as a few tears slid down his cheeks and into his bear's well-loved fur. He threw back the covers and crawled to the end of his bed where he scrubbed a gentle hand through Digger's white fur. "Don't you die, Digger. You need to stay here with me. Please," he pleaded as he kissed the dog's head. Digger's rough pink tongue came out to lap at Bo's nose and the little boy stifled a sniffly giggle. Bo cuddled the little dog close. He didn't remember his mom and dad. They had both died when he was a baby. He barely remembered his aunt, Uncle Jesse's wife. She had died a few years ago, and his memories of her were dim. He did, however, remember the sadness in their home and the empty feeling that had lingered in the house for a very long time after her death. With a sigh, he wiggled back under his covers and tried to go to sleep.
The next day was a Monday, which meant everyone was up early. Bo patted Digger on the head, but the little dog was content to lie on the end of the boy's bed instead of getting up for breakfast. Bo hurried into the kitchen and climbed into a chair next to Daisy.
"Where's Luke and Uncle Jesse?" he asked his cousin.
Daisy swallowed a mouthful of cereal before replying. "Uncle Jesse is takin' Luke's temperature. He don't feel good."
Bo frowned. He hated days where he had to go to school without his big cousin. Uncle Jesse appeared in the kitchen doorway just then and went to the stove to pour himself a cup of coffee.
"Luke is staying home today, kids. It will just be the two of you catching the bus this morning."
"What's wrong with him, Uncle Jesse?" Bo asked worriedly.
"He just has a sore throat and a fever, Bo. Nothing to worry about," Jesse assured him.
"Hurry up and eat, Bo," Daisy encouraged him as she finished the last of her juice. "You're gonna make us late."
Bo quickly ate a bowl of cereal and was just tying his shoes when the bus honked outside on the country road. He snatched up his backpack but turned toward his bedroom instead of the front door.
"Bo!" Daisy called impatiently.
"Gonna tell Digger bye!" he threw over his shoulder as he raced into the bedroom and scratched his furry friend behind the ears. "See you after school, Digger," he promised. The little dog whined and licked his hand before curling back up into a ball.
"Bye, Luke!" Bo hollered toward his cousin who was curled up across the room in his bed before hurrying to catch up with Daisy.
The school day passed slowly, and Bo was eager to get home to see Luke and Digger. He hoped Luke was feeling better tomorrow and could return to school. The bullies were afraid to mess with him as long as his big cousin was around.
Bo and Daisy rushed off of the school bus when it stopped in front of their farm. Uncle Jesse was waiting for them on the porch.
"Hey, Uncle Jesse!" Bo hollered as he stormed up the steps with Daisy hot on his heels.
"Hang on just a minute, kids," Jesse called out, catching them before they entered the house.
Bo skidded to a stop and Daisy crashed into his back. Both kids turned to look at their uncle. "I need to go check on Digger," Bo panted.
"Come sit here with me for a minute." Jesse patted the wooden porch swing.
Bo and Daisy exchanged confused looks and dropped their backpacks to the porch before going to sit with their uncle.
"What is it, Uncle Jesse?" Daisy asked as Jesse slid an arm around Bo.
Jesse sighed. "Well, Luke came to find me this afternoon when I was out in the barn. Seems he had dozed off and when he woke up he checked on Digger."
Bo's heart began to thud in his chest at the mention of the dog's name. He wanted to jump off the swing and run check on the pup, but Uncle Jesse was still talking.
"You see, when he checked on Digger, he couldn't get him to wake up."
Bo's breath was coming in harsh pants now. Daisy gripped his hand tightly in hers and asked the question Bo couldn't seem to form with his lips.
"Is Digger okay, Uncle Jesse?" she asked anxiously.
"I'm afraid Digger's body was just too old and sick, Daisy. He's gone to heaven now," Jesse explained gently.
Daisy's eyes widened. "Ya mean he died?" she asked as tears pooled in her eyes.
Jesse nodded. "I'm sorry, Daisy." He turned his attention to the seven-year-old next to him. "Bo?" he queried softly.
With a choked sob, Bo leapt off the swing and jumped off the porch. He ran toward the barn and climbed the ladder in the back that led to the dusty hayloft. Bo curled up in a corner and sobbed, pounding his small fist into the scratchy hay. "It's not fair!" he screamed into the quiet of the loft. "It's not fair!" He looked up at the ceiling and screamed at the heavens, "Why'd you have to take Digger, too? You already took my mom and dad and my aunt!"
Bo sobbed until he was spent. He curled up into a ball and just breathed in the dusty smell of the hay as he ached with an empty feeling inside.
At some point, he must have fallen asleep. He woke to a gentle hand on his back and Uncle Jesse calling his name. "Wake up, Bo. You must be hungry. We finished supper over an hour ago."
Bo sniffled and sat up, wiping at his eyes with his sleeve. "Is Digger really gone, Uncle Jesse?" he asked.
"He's really gone, Bo," Jesse sighed as he drew the little boy into a hug.
"It's not fair, Uncle Jesse," Bo lamented angrily. "Why did Digger have to die? How come other kids get to have their moms and dads and everything and I don't have mine? And now Digger's gone too." His voice broke off on a sob.
Jesse stroked a gentle hand through Bo's blonde locks as he considered how to respond to the anguished child. "Bo, there's no easy answer to that, son," he sighed. "Our family has suffered more than our fair share of loss, but death is part of life. We will all die someday. It's the way the Good Lord created things to work. We are born; we live; and we die."
"But I loved Digger!" Bo protested. "I want him here with me!"
"I know you do," Jesse sympathized. "I wish he was still here, too. But Bo, Digger was hurting. He didn't feel well. He loved you and wanted to be with you, but his little body was just old and worn out. You don't want him to be hurting, do you?"
"No," Bo nearly moaned on a sob.
"I know you are going to miss him, and be sad," Jesse sympathized. "We all will. But, ol' Digger, he'd want you to remember the good times, too."
Bo shook his head and wiped at his tears with a fist.
Jesse chuckled and Bo looked up at him sharply. "'Member that time he stole that big chicken breast and hid under your bed?"
A small smile curved Bo's lips. "Yeah, and the smell stayed in our room made me and Luke hungry at bedtime that night."
Jesse hugged his little boy close. "Digger gave us lots of good memories like that," he reminded Bo. "Now, I've put Digger in a little box. Do you want to help me bury him or would you like me to do it by myself?"
Bo thought for a moment. "Can I help you, Uncle Jesse? I wanna do it for Digger."
"Come on, then," Jesse told him. "It's getting late. Let's go pick a good spot for him."
Daisy helped them dig a hole underneath a tree beside the garden, one of Digger's favorite places on the farm. Luke even came outside wrapped in a blanket as they laid the little dog to rest. Jesse said a prayer thanking the Lord for the faithful terrier as all three kids sniffled and wiped at their eyes.
Once back in the house, Jesse made everyone take baths and get ready for bed. Upon entering their bedroom, Bo stopped and looked at his bed. Tears welled in his eyes when he looked at the empty space at the bottom.
"Hey, cousin," Luke called softly from his bed on the other side of the room.
Bo looked up at him with watery eyes.
"Wanna sleep with me tonight?" Luke asked. He held up the edge of his blanket.
Bo only considered the offer for a moment before he snatched his teddy bear and launched himself into his cousin's bed, curling up against Luke's chest as sobs shook his small body. "I miss Digger, Luke."
"Me, too, Cousin," Luke sighed, "but I like to imagine him up in heaven with our moms and dads waiting for us."
Bo lifted his head so that he could look into Luke's face. "Ya really think he's with them, Luke?"
"Sure!" his older cousin answered confidently. "Bet they're givin' him scratches behind the ears just the way he likes it right now."
Bo rested his head against Luke's shoulder and thought about that for a moment. "They'll take good care of 'im," he finally decided with a yawn.
"Course they will," Luke assured him.
"I still miss him, Luke," Bo told him sleepily.
"Me, too, Bo," Luke agreed, rubbing his cousin's back in soothing circles.
Though little Digger was gone from the Duke farm, he was never forgotten. He name often came up with a fondly remembered story and a bittersweet smile. Digger lived in the hearts of the Duke family for the rest of their lives, always a treasured and beloved friend.
*In loving memory of Dale and Dakota, gone but never, ever forgotten.