What i am thinking…
On Monday, we said goodbye to our family dog. Our best friend. Bauer Supreme McKenna.
I know. What a ridiculous name for a pet. But when my wife, Rachel, chose him almost 14 years ago, I thought it was perfect. Bauer turns out to be one of the most popular hockey dog names out there.
Well done, Mike.
His name has become a hilarious joke about how naive I can be. And it’s hard for me to argue with that.
But what’s undisputed is the love, support, and compassion pets bring — especially to hockey players.
Early in my career, Rachel started hinting that she liked a dog. She grew up always with one and wanted a companion when I was on the road.
The only problem is that I’m a cat person.
So it took me a while to warm up to the idea. But in the end I realized she was right. If I had to go away so often, the least I could do was learn to live with a dog.
We had an agreement. She has to pick him up. I have to name him. And ironically, we went – ironically – to a local hockey game in the spring of 2008 in search of our new friend.
Rachel saw Bauer crouched in the corner of the play and immediately carried him outside. He is one of these. And his house has arrived.
Bauer stared at the rug. Once. That is so that. But he is very cute and polite. He cuddles. And he seems to like me – as long as I don’t wear sweatpants.
Oh, does Bauer hate sweatpants? The noise frightened him.
It is true that he is afraid of everything. But I fell in love with that dog too quickly.
The first season we had Bauer was my fourth year as a pro, starting in Norfolk, Virginia in the AHL with the Norfolk Admirals. We lived across from the arena – The Scope – and he would wait for me on the windowsill every day.
Coming home and seeing his cute little face changed my whole demeanor. I used to be in top form in matches and training. I will hit the stick. Curse. Mow. And looking back, I have no doubt that it hurt my career early on.
Bauer changed all that. He helped me leave the game at the rink. He provides an outlet and a distraction. He would curl up next to me during his pregnancy naps. And he can listen all day. I need him more than ever.
I know I’m not alone in describing these things. People from all walks of life find comfort and friendship with their pets. But what we do as hockey players is extremely stressful. We have to show our full potential in front of thousands – sometimes millions – of people.
There’s a pile of money on the line. Contract. But what always comes to me is the danger of confusion. All my life, I dreamed of playing in the NHL. And I really want to succeed, not only for myself but also for everyone who has accompanied the journey. When I have a tough game, my friends and family get hurt. I’m hurt.
But Bauer never did. He’s always there. Win or lose, its tail wagged when I got home.
I think that’s a big reason why so many hockey players have dogs. We yearn for their soothing presence and friendship. We need the healthy distraction of going for a walk. It allows us to clear our minds and enjoy something simple. There is nothing purer than a dog’s love.
Hockey players – especially those on the go – associate memories with the places we’ve lived.
Because hockey players often have to get used to new places, so do hockey pups. When I try to think of every house, every apartment, even every hotel for the matter that Bauer lived with Rachel and I, it takes a minute or two to remember them all.
In addition to our two homes in St. Louis and the apartment across from Norfolk Scope, he still lives with us at our home in Adirondack. And in apartments with us in Lowell, Mass., Springfield, Mass., Syracuse, Peoria, Albany and Allentown.
Oh yes, there are also hotels in Lowell and Syracuse. As well as hotels in Tampa, New Jersey and Dallas. And two days in a hotel in Ottawa.
When you add our homes in Binghamton, Portland, Austin, Belleville and our home in Enfield, CT., it shows 20 places where Bauer has lived with us. No matter where we went, he was always the same old Bauer, happy and excited for the next adventure, wherever it was.
The way he was with Rachel and I every step of the way, Bauer provided an extra layer of context to each chapter of our lives.
Remember when Bauer tried to eat sponges in Virginia?
Remember when he ate Cole Haan’s brand new apartments and ripped toys to pieces in Norfolk?
Remember when he chased the deer in Albany?
Remember when he did the 10 minute zoom on Binghamton snow?
Remember when a teammate of the Portland Pirates left the door open on Thanksgiving and he drank salt water from the swamp – and vomited all over the place?
Remember when he ate rock salt in Syracuse and vomited all over the place?
Remember when he barked – just once – at every tollgate as we traveled across the country at the beginning and end of the season?
Remember when he almost died when we moved from Belleville to Lehigh Valley?
That last one. That is a stupidity.
During my last professional hockey season, I started a year in Belleville, Ontario playing for the AHL Senators. At the end of October, I was called up by the Ottawa Senators. And while in the distance, Bauer started acting differently.
He has become diabetic. Bauer will need two insulin shots for the rest of his life.
As the season progressed, I shuffled from Ottawa to the Vancouver Canucks, Vancouver to the Philadelphia Flyers and finally, Philadelphia to its AHL affiliate, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. After four months as our family living apart, we were back together in Pennsylvania.
My family remained in Belleville the entire time I was away. So in early March, I went back and loaded the trailer. We drove just over six hours the next day. But despite following the procedures prescribed by the Belleville vet, something was wrong with Bauer. We just know.
I have a match the next day in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton against the Penguins. My wife took Bauer to a local vet, who advised taking him to a pet hospital immediately. She has done.
Bauer is suffering from diabetic ketoacidosis and veterinarians are not sure he will survive the treatment.
I discovered this just before going ice for warmups and I can’t tell you how happy I was backing up that night than starting. Playing that game would be impossible.
Rachel took him back to the hotel, thinking it might be our last night with him. We have to make a decision.
I entered the hotel room door and Bauer – his body limp and frail – stood up and took the lightest steps towards me, wagging his tail.
There’s no way I’d give up on him. He’s been there for me all these years. We have to give him a chance to fight. It makes me cry just thinking about it.
Bauer made it through and lived for almost three more years.
Usually when I sit down to write these stories, there’s a hot NHL topic that I want to talk about. Or maybe a player or a team to highlight. But not this week. The only thing I can think of is Bauer.
The dog I never knew I needed. The dog changed my entire outlook on hockey, and in many ways, life.
Our family may be grieving, but we are so lucky to have Bauer with us. He lives in countless cities, eats more stones than you can imagine, and fights to the very end.
I owe Bauer a lot but he never knew it. All he wants is to be loved. And he was a lot.
Thank you Bauer Supreme. I love you dear friend.
https://www.dailyfaceoff.com/mckenna-a-tribute-to-my-forever-friend-who-taught-me-the-power-of-a-pets-love/ McKenna: A tribute to my forever friend who taught me the power of a pet’s love