In Memoriam: MR. BYTE 1980-1995

[Originally posted on CompuServe and alt.rec.pets.dogs.misc on April 29, 1995.]

It is with considerable sadness that I report the passing of Darkel's Lucky Guess, a Bichon Frise better known to all of you as Mr. Byte. He was struck with lymphoma last October, so it was no surprise, and although he was given very effective treatment for the disease, the vet told us eventually the treatments cease to work. He did well for several months, reaching his 14th birthday in early December, and managing to look reasonably spry for the Coriolis Group staff photo in the April/May 1995 issue of PC TECHNIQUES. In early April he began reacting to the chemotherapy, so we ceased the treatment and waited. His health was up and down after that, but by the middle of last week things began going badly. His lymph nodes swelled enormously, and he began crying during the night. On April 28th, Friday morning, he whose appetite was legendary refused to eat Milk Bone, and Carol and I knew it was time. He died peacefully in my arms at 1:15 PM that day.

For those who perhaps just tuned in and don't understand, Mr. Byte has figured in dozens of my articles and all of my books, has appeared in photos in TURBO TECHNIX and PC TECHNIQUES, and was part of a science fiction story by David Gerrold that has been nominated for both the Hugo and Nebula Awards. [Both awards were later won.--JD] He's gotten Christmas cards and fan mail from all over the world. When I took him somewhere, he generally got more attention than I did, which is fine--he was way better looking than me anyway.

We went adventuring a lot together in the Magic Van, and I used many of those adventures as jumping-off points for discussions of programming topics in my articles and columns in PC TECHNIQUES and Dr. Dobb's Journal. We dug for sharks' teeth in the Scotts Valley sand pits. We walked through the abandoned amusement park where Borland later erected their new corporate headquarters. We swam together at Harper's Ferry, searched for comets in New York State, warily watched elephant seals on the beach north of Santa Cruz, and went many other places as well.

We used to keep Mr. Byte in the kitchen while we were at work, and he would pull books off the kitchen table and chew them up. I still have a copy of George Cortesi's 1984 book, Personal Pascal, with Mr. Byte's teeth marks in it. He somehow managed to remove the cloth covering from the cardboard plates binding a hardcover copy of John Gantz's The Naked Computer, a task we did not see and will never quite understand how he accomplished.

Please cut me some slack for fussing a little here. There are people who say, It's just a dog, without realizing the lessons we can learn from dogs with only a little attention. A dog reminds us that life goes quickly--but, just as surely, that life is good, that loyalty and bravery are worth something, and that an empty lap is an awful waste.

But most of all, in caring for Mr. Byte I learned that a dog is a fingertip of the Almighty, thrust briefly into our lives to test the breadth and depth of our kindness. How we respond to that fingertip is the surest test of our humanity--and it would pay, if we are ever tempted to anger or cruelty, to remember just Whose fingertip it is.

I know I passed that test, and I know that there are wheels in the universe that must turn, whether we want them to or not. Mr. Byte's life was a triumph, and his release from pain was a necessary and inevitable part of my stewardship of that life. But in his final moments, I realized that it had been many years since I lost anything I had loved quite that much, and you will have to forgive me for being sad for a little while.

--Jeff Duntemann
Scottsdale, Arizona

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