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Midwest Today, April/May 1996


photo of Buddy


A Tribute to Man's Best Friend...and One Unforgettable Dog


Anyone who knows me knows I have a real fondness for dogs. Recently I lost a special pal. Buddy was 12-1/2 years old. His mother was a golden retriever, but he was black, and smaller -- so I don't know what mix he was. I had answered an ad in the paper when I lived in Florida, and as I walked up to where a mother dog had her pups, this was the only one who paid me any attention. He ran to greet me -- a pint-sized bundle of love -- and I knew this was the dog for me.

He was my friend for more years than I've known most people. He depended on me and uncomplainingly accommodated our moves over thousands of miles, my fluctuating fortunes, and living circumstances that were at times unfairly stressful for him.

Through it all, he retained a happy disposition. He was obedient and loyal, and I regret that too many times I took him for granted. Buddy provided some stability to my life -- a touchstone to which I could return again and again for renewal, reassurance and comfort.

There were some close calls. When my home was broken into, he disappeared for about eight days. I was sure I had lost him then, but I spotted him on a corner somewhere and he ran to the car to hop in when he saw me.

He had a bad reaction to some medication and had a frightening seizure -- but minutes after an emergency trip to the vet, he was outside ready to play in the spray from the garden hose.

One Christmas after I had received a "care" package of baked goods from my mother in Iowa, Buddy helped himself to a whole box of fudge while I was in the shower. Chocolate is supposed to be dangerous to canines, but it didn' t phase him one bit.

Back when I used to enjoy a cocktail, I foolishly left Buddy alone with an orange juice and vodka as I went to answer the phone. He slurped it down and sat there with what I swore was a smile on his face.

A couple of years after I got Buddy, another dog entered my life. Pete, or "Petey" as I've called him, and Bud were like brothers. For over ten years they were daily companions.

The most difficult ordeal, I'm sure, was when both dogs were held hostage for over a year and a half in Florida while a protracted wrangle with an unscrupulous kennel operator unfolded. They say dogs forget their masters after awhile, but not these two. The night we were reunited they were overjoyed with excitement and relief.

Buddy was fond of teasing his friend Pete, they got into their share of squabbles, and Buddy invariably acquiesced, but throughout the years, I think they depended on each other.

When Buddy died, Petey was utterly lost. He would perk up his ears and look around at the mention of Buddy's name. He didn' t eat well, and spent hours howling in evident despair.

Others have remarked on the special communion which can exist with "man's best friend." Buddy could read my moods and gestures, and knew exactly how to respond. We had our special signals -- such as the distinctive-sounding "yap yap yap" that alerted me when Pete was into mischief. When Buddy suspected a stranger's motives, he warned me of that, too.

Gladys Taber, a favorite author and chronicler of country life, was devoted to dogs. "I suspect with people, even those who love us and whom we love, there is always a reservation," she wrote. "Dogs have none, they purely love. [They] never criticize...never have recriminations. A dog figures you can really do no wrong, though you may be misguided now and then. For me, I would never wish to return to a home that had no wildly wagging tail at the door.

"They have the will to live and live as happily as possible. They can die of grief, but prefer not to.

"To really deserve the love of a dog is a good goal. The patience with queer human decisions they cannot understand, the all-forgiving wags and licks after being abandoned -- these are priceless. People have to be pretty nice to justify the way their dogs love them."

Dogs are sensate creatures, who are given a range of emotions much like ours -- the ability to feel attachment, loneliness, anxiety, sadness, jubilation, boredom, bewilderment and more.

Yet a barrier exists to their complete understanding. I couldn't tell Pete, for instance, why his friend wasn't coming home. He felt loss, but he didn't understand.

The last night, when Buddy's sudden lethargy became apparent, he nuzzled me and put his head in my hands. As I petted him and recalled aloud the times we had shared, I looked into those big brown eyes, so gentle, warm and attentive -- the same eyes the next day that looked at me knowingly in the car on the way to the vet, as if to say "Friend, this is my time to leave you." He appeared so sad and quietly resigned, I am convinced he knew.

Those of us who are believers look forward to a heavenly reuniting with lost loved ones. But Scripture tells us that with animals, their bodies and souls cease to exist at death. There is finality. We will never see them again.

A friend says that when her parents' dog died they grieved for days. They couldn't sleep, they didn't eat, they were in such a state of mourning that she feared for their health.

I was surprised by the depth of my sorrow. A flood of memories washed over me, of things I hadn't thought about in years.

I found out later Buddy must have been in pain, but he was too stoic to show it. He also had cataracts, but you'd never know it because he somehow adapted.

Still sensitive to my feelings, he had waited to let go until I had gone home, (I'd been reassured by the vet that he'd be okay), and thus he died quietly alone. He seemed determined to end his life giving as little trouble as he could.

I'll always miss you, my dear Buddy.

A Postscript from the Author: Ever since this article appeared, I have received countless letters from people who have a story to tell about the loss of a beloved pet. This dog was so special to me that here in 1999, three years later, I cannot see Buddy's picture or re-read this story myself without a lump in my throat and tears welling up in my eyes. I STILL miss you, Buddy. And you'd be happy to know that your friend Pete has been a real comfort. He is now 14, and every day with him is precious.

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