Today marks the fourth year since the passing of Buddy. We got Buddy when I was only 8 years old and he was my best friend growing up. Being an only child in a single parent family, where my dad worked 10 hour days and had two hour of computing left me only with Buddy for most of the day. He was a mixed dog that we rescued from the humane society. They were unable to tell us what he was mixed with or anything else about him. The owners dropped him and several of his brothers and sisters off at the front door of the humane society in a box with a note reading, “Please take care of these dogs, we are unable to afford to feed them”.
Taking him to the vet, the best they were able to tell us, without doing an expensive DNA test, was that he was mostly Black Labrador Retriever with maybe some German Shepard and maybe some Border Collie. When we picked him out of the bunch, he was hiding back in the corner of the pen, nervous and afraid. Upon taking him home, he continued his shy and frightful behavior. I can remember one time where a deliveryman knocked on the door, and Buddy took off and hid behind the couch.
This young puppy, shy and afraid, weighing only a few pounds would soon begin to grow monster feet. Feet that were actually very oversized for the little puppy frame they were attached to. Seeing him run around was almost comical, often tripping over his huge feet. The saying goes, “big feet puppy, will grow eventually grow into their feet”. That Buddy did! As he got older, he got bigger and bigger, until he was finally 130 pounds of muscle. Being mostly lab, he had a very strong and large front shoulders and leaned down just slightly before reaching his strong back legs.
As he grew large, so did his confidence and protectiveness. Gone were the days of hiding behind the couch, not that he would be able to fit anyways. Buddy was now very protective, mostly of me and the house. Being home alone most of the time and living out in the country this was a blessing. He would alert me of any cars pulling in the driveway, but was trained not to bark at animals in the yard. Moreover, when he barked, you heard him no matter where in the house you were. He had an aggressive and deep bark, perfect for being protective. When someone came to the door, he would bark and stand up on the door, looking through the window at the top of the door, eye to eye to the person knocking at the door.
Buddy was also easily the most intelligent dog that I have ever met. He could understand dozens of words. Reacting to questions and would understand commands. He learned to knock on the door when he wanted back in the house and would tell you if he was out of water or wanted food. As long as you did not say the forbidden words, bath or tub, he was always a joyful dog. He even had a great memory, often impressing everyone when he would remember that one tree where there was always the squirrel or knew when in the car trips there was cows. Buddy loved going for car rides. Jumping in the back seat with both windows down or even sometimes choosing to sit in the front seat, kicking dad to the back.
Unfortunately, as with most large labs, he began to have issues with his shoulders and joints. Which showed the most when he was running; having issues with his hind hips, he would run with them almost locked, often causing him to run slightly sideways. Which with his unique tail wag, or should I say spin (he would wag with tail, when running, in a circular motion in one direct and then change into the other direction), made for a unique trot.
Buddy was the best dog a person could wish for. Unfortunately, dogs do not live the same life span as us humans. As he reached his 15th birthday, what we are going to call his birthday given we did not know the date, he began really showing his age. His face turned gray and his shoulder got even worse. Nevertheless, he still had the mind of his younger self, which often lead to him injuring himself chasing that one squirrel that would always be by the creek or trying to keep up with the neighbors lab pup. He tried to stay strong his final months, he was a prideful dog, but you could see he was hiding the pain.
Which led up to the morning of May 11th 2013, the worse day of my life. I woke up to hearing Buddy gagging and whimpering, unable to find him, I searched the house. I could not find him, only hear him. I finally was able to find him, he managed to hide in my dad’s closet (later I read that when dogs are near death they will wonder off or hide to die). He was laying there unable to get up, covered in puke (found out that his kidney’s had shut down during the night). I grabbed a heavy blanket and wrapped him up managed to pick him up in the small closet. Even in his old age, he still was a muscular 120-125 pounds. Putting Buddy down was a hard decision, but it was time, it was time to end his pain and suffering.
We buried him up on the hill where he could see down on the pond and field, watching over us as we walked the farm. I believe Buddy still watches over us to this day, keeping us safe. I still have his choker collar hanging on the doorknob of my bedroom door. I even think he guards and keeps my, soon to be two year old, son company. Dog was one of my son’s first words, and one day he was running through the house like he was playing with a dog, saying dog over and over again.
Buddy was a dog like no other. He will be forever missed. I am hoping as my son gets older I can find him a dog to be his own Buddy like I had.
~ Michael Cassatt