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  • Jennifer Misfeldt, MABTR

Phife - MABTR Alumni

The morning of April 9, 2024 our hardwoods became four footsteps emptier.

The most difficult part of owning pets is not only saying goodbye, but figuring out how to break the news to your children, before school, as the sun rises to greet your unstoppable tears, so they could say their goodbyes, too. Last time we had to put a dog down was April 8th, 2018, with Peanut—almost six years to the day. Phife likely had brain cancer, which we never knew until yesterday, when a severe cycle of seizures hit him at 3:30 AM, and never subsided.

I’ve said it before: we never would have traded one late-night trip to the yard for piddles, one doggy diaper change, one messy cleanup, one vet visit, or this terribly sad day, for a lifetime not knowing Phife. He came to us after his original family left him behind, so they could venture to their new life in England. No hard feelings, though; their loss became our gain. His little spirit was broken when we initially took him in, and we didn’t realize we’d be taking him directly from the only little girl he’d ever known for his first nine years (I still think about that poor girl from time to time). But, we handed the leash to Paige, who has been holding it—and his heart—ever since.

I’ll be honest. I didn’t bond with Phife at first—I didn’t trust the look in that 9-yard-stare at the beginning, and I feel pretty badly about that, now. I just wanted to protect my girl, and make sure this pup with the hopeful gaze wouldn't lash out at her because of the unfairness of his situation. Whereas he was probably just making sure we wouldn't leave him behind again. Fair! He was another one of our MABTR foster dogs, and I was looking at applications for potential adopters, when it became quickly apparent that Paige had every intention of “foster failing” with Phife, and we quickly relented. Time taught me that there was not one ounce of aggression in his bones—only the desire to be with us wherever we were. There was no one he’d rather be with, and no person he’d defend so fiercely as Paige, and later, Sarah, too, and I am so glad we gave him a chance.

He was the first to hear anything with those giant batwings we called “ears,” and he had the shrillest alarm. He was our fearless defender, but he was definitely all bark and no bite. He earned the nickname, “The Fun Police,” because he’d expel an atrocious groan—like a cow who fell down a well—when the other dogs started wrestling harder than he preferred—even if he wasn’t involved—and he’d get really nervous that we were being too rough when we’d have tickle wars with the girls. But, the second you reached down to reassure him that no one was in real danger, he would shrink a little lower, and soak in the loves.

Phife accompanied us on many a camping trip, road trip, AirBnB stay, and was an incredible companion, and a lifer when it came to snuggling in our bed at night, with the other two dogs, (which left me with approximately 1/8 of the bed). Phife hated cats, but not Bertie, because Bertie was awesome and docile and just a pleasant, angelic, silent backdrop for the whole family. Just recently, after Phife would be antsy and pacing at night, Justin found a spot on his neck that was almost like a deflation button. Phife would slowly dip his head deeper into his glorious neck rub, until the ecstasy would just take over, and he’d do a diagonal front flip into his bed, and be down for the count for the night. It was magical. This discovery drew him to J in his final months, and they became solid bros, too.

I’m so grateful he got one last visit with his favorite second mommy, Melissa, while we were gone last week, and one last trip to Grandma and Grandpa Bilsteins’, just this past Sunday. Phife was one month shy of age sweet 16, which the vet said is pretty remarkable for a Bosty. His birthday was May 24, 2008—the same year Justin and I got married, and Guinn was born, too. In fact, he and Guinn were often mistaken for twins—born the same year, but in different litters, and with very different personalities.

Thank you for trusting us to take you as our own, after experiencing such heartache and abandonment, Phife. We loved you for 6 years, though we were undoubtedly ready for more. No more stiff legs, or achy joints, or monthly shots to ease the arthritis; no more seizures; no more hidden cancer… but no shortage of tears here, either. It was an honor to hold you until your heart beat for the last time.

To our dear furball, fuzz bucket, Phife, AKA Phiferoni, PhiferoniPepperoni, Little StretchyBoy, Bag o’Bones, PhiferDoodleNoodle, BatDog, Fifi (according to the vet tech who could never get it right), Phifester, Ticky-Tacky-Toes, Fun Police, and our “Sweet Little Lady Boy”(—coined by Paige at age 4)…We love you so, and will miss you always.

Never enough time…

“Our animal friends teach us more than we could have expected, and love us more than we could have hoped. That’s why we miss them more than we could have imagined.” – Unknown


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