He came into our lives in August, he left us in August.
Buddy was a gentle soul, a life changer. In the very early days of the blog, I recounted how we met him, but in brief: in 2013, one of our friends who worked with the local Humane Society brought some animals to a back-to-school function at our church. Twelve-year-old Ben, who’d grown up petrified of dogs, immediately bonded with this 60 lb. collie mix, and just over a week later, Buddy began his journey with us.
He was of unknown age when he moved in—probably between five and eight. Buddy wasn’t a cuddler or a lap dog; while some of that no doubt was nature, I always had a sense that in his earlier life he’d been disciplined not to get up on things. (I can’t complain at all that he didn’t want to climb into bed with us.) He needed a little time to get used to the new circumstance of his life—and vice versa—and a little training to learn not to bark at other dogs on walks. It wasn’t long before everyone adjusted, though, and he became an integral part of the family.
A couple years in, Buddy began losing fur and had trouble keeping steady. It took quite a while for the vet to determine that he had an atypical presentation of Addison’s disease (I guess his adrenal glands had atrophied, but the standard blood work couldn’t determine it). It was simple to fix—just a small, daily dose of prednisone—but until that determination, Martha and I had become more afraid as the weeks passed that we might lose him.
After that, life with Buddy went smoothly for a few years. He got in the habit of taking three walks each day—Martha would go on a long one with him most mornings, then there’d be one right before dinner, and another afterward. Martha particularly enjoyed the morning and evening walks, as she got to know neighbors (and the neighborhood) better; a dog makes a good starting point for conversation. As he aged, however, the walks first dropped down to twice a day, and eventually only the evening one remained.
The pandemic meant all three of us got to spend much more time at home with our dog, but that coincided with the beginnings of a slow but steady decline in Buddy’s mobility. The last walk in the neighborhood came this past April. Over the last year it’s been clear that dementia was setting in as well.
Here are a few favorite memories we have of Buddy:
–Trips to the dog park at Masterson Station Park in Lexington. It was great to give Buddy opportunities to run freely. He wasn’t much of a fetcher, but when other owners would throw something, he’d chase along with the dog going after it, barking all the way. He also tended to try to police matters when other pooches got into it with one another;
–Playing ‘sock’ in the back yard or basement. We did get Buddy to learn to go after a sock filled with a rubber ball here at the house. He was generally not very graceful—often when he would excitedly go after it, his front legs would splay out in odd directions. He regularly dropped the sock about halfway back, yet still expected the treat upon return;
–His energy when we returned home and let him out of the crate in the basement. Buddy could usually hear when we were back and would be standing in the crate by the time one of us got downstairs. He’d then bound up the stairs to the kitchen and drink deeply from his water bowl.
–Slinking into our walk-in closet during thunderstorms. Like so many dogs, Buddy hated thunder. Somehow he decided that closet was a safe place.
–Howling at sirens. I know the noise bothered him, but his mournful “A-roooooooo” became a part of the sonic landscape;
–Running home at the end of walks. We’d frequently let him off the leash near the top of our cul-de-sac, and he’d half-lope/half-dash toward our driveway. When Ben went along with us, they’d race. When our neighbor Mary was out, Buddy might peel off and head over to her instead, wiggling his butt furiously, ears down in a submissive manner and waiting for a head rub.
Over the last eighteen months or so, we’ve been missing how Buddy was; how he has been lately has been a challenge for everyone, Buddy included. Things finally came to a head around 3am Thursday morning. After dealing with the latest mess, Martha, Ben and I finally talked freely about stuff we’d been hinting at for the last 2-3 months. We worried that we were being selfish for considering letting Buddy go, yet we could also see that he wasn’t enjoying much about his life.
This morning, after a meal of boiled chicken breast, we took him to the vet one last time. On his most recent trips there, he’s been quite agitated, panting the entire way, pooping on the blanket in the car en route, pacing nervously once we got there. We had reason to be concerned that he’d be panic-stricken in his final moments.
Instead, he was surprisingly calm. No panting, no obvious display of nerves on the trip. (He did still poop in the car a little, I guess for old times’ sake.) We walked him into their euthanasia room, and he pretty easily laid still on his blanket. I guess he was ready to go; maybe he’d been ready well before we were.
Even toward the end, it may have been hard to tell from a distance about his issues. His coat was still in fine shape overall, and there were passing moments—even yesterday—when the old Buddy spark of life showed in his eyes. I took the picture at the top just this past Monday. The right-ear-up-left-ear-slightly floppy is (yes, was) a standard-issue Buddy pose.
This coming Tuesday marks the eight-year anniversary of Buddy entering and transforming Ben’s life. I don’t know—maybe it’ll be easier to observe that, celebrate it, knowing that he’s not suffering any more. I guess we’ll see.
Thank you, Buddy, for everything.