May 29, 2021
We got Buddy when he was 9 years old. We said goodbye to Buddy on May 18th 2021 when he was 15-1/2 years old.
We got him because of Facebook. It’s the only time I remember something good coming to us from Facebook. Our long-time friend Jen shared a post about Buddy needing a new home. He looked all cuddly in the photos. And there was a cat on the couch with him. All my other dogs hated cats. I had big hopes for Buddy.
Buddy’s was a story I’d seen many times before. A couple gets serious and gets a dog to see if they can handle the responsibility of having a family. The couple teaches the dog to poop outside and not misbehave at cocktail parties. Couple decides they have what it takes to start a family and has a child. Eventually, the couple realizes that having a family is much harder than having a dog. The relationship starts to crumble and the dog gets dumped on Facebook.
I asked one of Buddy’s owners why she was giving Buddy away. She looked directly at me and said her daughter had dog allergies and if she had to choose between her daughter and Buddy she would CHOOSE HER DAUGHTER. In a strange way, I felt guilty because I chose Buddy and not HER DAUGHTER. It was like I was adopting a member of the Manson Family bent on causing HER DAUGHTER harm.
And Buddy kind of looked like the Manson Family’s dog. He had horrible dander. His eyes were goopy-green. His cheeks were bloody from scratching. He wheezed like a leaky boiler. And he wobbled around when he walked. Buddy seemed like a large, stinky, arthritic inconvenience. And he pooped on the lawn. The couple’s daughter was charming and it was clear she adored Buddy. She hung all over him and seemed confused that Buddy was going with us. And the daughter wasn’t covered in hives or gasping for breath like Buddy.
They told us he was up to date on his shots and vet visits. We found out later they hadn’t brought him to a vet since they left California years ago. They said he was AKC registered. Yet his AKC papers weren’t filed for some reason. We didn’t care about that.
All Buddy’s stuff was piled in the foyer like he’d been evicted. Evidently, they just randomly threw his stuff in a big pile– his crappy food, bed, toys, blankets, medicines, shampoos, papers, grooming tools…. Everything was heaped in a pile with no thought, organization, or regard. My eyes fell on his bowl- a nice plastic bowl that had comical pictures of dogs and writing that said “A Dog’s Whole Life Is Ridiculous!”
HER DAUGHTER helped me load it all into the car. Buddy’s owners watched suspiciously from the foyer.
* * * * * * *
Three years later, Buddy’s previous owners decided to move back to California. They asked to see him one last time. When I hesitated, they asked to see Buddy one last time FOR THEIR DAUGHTER’S SAKE, so I assumed they were moving back to California with their daughter.
On that day, only one parent showed up. I didn’t ask. She wanted to see Buddy on the lawn across the street. I brought him over and left him with her and watched through the shop window. Buddy panicked. He squirmed away and ran 20ft away from her. I think he thought she was taking him back and he was terrified. I brought Max, Auggie and Coal across the street and they swamped her. Once Buddy saw the other dogs, he went over to her.
About 10 minutes later, she thanked me and was gone forever.
Buddy settled into life with us and quickly blossomed into the dumbest dog we’d ever met. Some people got angry when I called him Big Dumb Buddy. Without exception, these people didn’t know him. And they definitely didn’t read his blogs.
Buddy was always a tick behind the other dogs. Some might say that if Buddy fell into a room full of boobs he would come out sucking his thumb. But you always waited for him to cross that finish line. And when he finally crossed it, you felt like he had accomplished something exceptional. He was always so proud of himself. His smile was rare gold.
Buddy didn’t come on command. He didn’t sit, lie down, or give paw either. He didn’t compete for our affections like the other dogs. Every trick or command we tried to teach him failed miserably. He couldn’t be broken of pooping on the walkway with encouragement or threats. He wasn’t outwardly defiant like Max who knew exactly what you wanted of him and refused. Buddy was dumb. He had no idea what you wanted from him and no amount of treats, encouragement, or anger could change that. He was dumb. That’s who Buddy was- dumb and lovable.
It wasn’t until one morning during breakfast when we found out how dumb Buddy really was.
Our morning ritual was to let the dogs out the sliding glass door to pee and poop. They would re-assemble at the sliding glass door to be let in when all their bowls were filled. When everything was set, we’d open the sliding glass door and the dogs would charge through it like a panicked herd of water buffalo to their respective food bowls.
On this day, our carpenter Alex Vise was replacing the sliding glass door and we had to let all the dogs through a side door. The side door opened into the same exact room as the sliding glass door- the same room with their food bowls. It was the same exact room.
When I opened the side door, all the dogs galloped to it and charged through.
Buddy ran through the side door with the rest of the dogs and then to the center of the room. He looked around. All the other dogs were at their bowls. Buddy started whimpering and running in circles looking around for his food bowl.
Liana and I had a good laugh for about 30 seconds. Ol’ Bud still couldn’t find his food bowl. We looked at each other in amazement. After another literal minute, I caught his collar and gently led him to his bowl where he gratefully gulped down his kibble. He looked up at me with a huge rare-gold smile.
Liana and I agreed- Buddy was the dumbest dog we’d ever known. He was Big Dumb Buddy. And big dumb dogs need the most love.
We cleared up his allergies. We walked him off-leash with the other dogs for an hour a day for his arthritis. We fed him good food and supplements. We brought him to the shop where he made friends all day long. There was never a kerfuffle with him. He never had an enemy. He only made friends.
Except for the rabbit.
* * * * * * *
Buddy was the most gentle dog on Dog’s Green Earth. He had absolutely no prey drive. So when he met a friend’s rabbit, none of us thought anything of it.
Buddy’s big flat head got closer and closer to the rabbit; sniffing curiously. He wasn’t being like an aggressive carnivore; he was very slow and respectful. When the rabbit was terrified enough, he leaped about 3ft, bit Buddy right on the very end of his nose, and beat a hasty retreat.
Buddy yelped loudly and withdrew like arthritic lightning. He ran over to me at the couch and stuck his head in my crotch. He whined and quaked over and over like a little baby. I saw the blood from his nose on my jeans. He couldn’t even look in the rabbit’s direction again without shuddering. All I could think of was The Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog in Monty Python’s “The Holy Grail.”
We couldn’t keep a band aid on his wet nose, so he obsessively slurped at it until it scarred over.
* * * * * * *
One afternoon I was on the couch watching a Red Sox game and Buddy walked up to me. He stared me right in the eye. Then he slammed his paw into my face like he was playing Whack-a-Mole. I had officially been High-Fived. Buddy looked ever so proud of himself. He sat there with a rare-gold smile on his face and a lolling tongue. Or maybe he was having a stroke.
I sat up and said “HIGH FIVE!” and Buddy wound up his paw and slapped my waiting hand with great gusto. I said, “GOOD JOB BUDDY! GOOD HIGH FIVE!” He could barely contain himself. Liana and I worked with him until he was regularly performing the super-dangerous “Upside-Down, Double-Reverse, Triple Lindy High-Five” with no fear.
It was the only trick or command he ever learned. And he was High-Fiving right up until we said goodbye.
Buddy also had the knack for making everything difficult. There was nothing personal about it. He was just dumb and had no sense of the immediate.
I would walk him for an hour before a hurricane was supposed to hit. When trees were being uprooted all around us and a horizontal wall of wind-driven water was sending our roof shingles somewhere into Canada, Buddy would signal us that he had to go out and poop. Then he had to poop again. And then pee.
* * * * * * *
He would be fine for hours on a roadtrip. But the second I got into fast, heavy traffic and there was no place to pull over, he would get his feeble ass hopelessly wedged between the door and the back seat. He would bark bloody murder for the dozens of miles I needed to pull over and free him.
* * * * * * *
When I couldn’t sleep, he’d get a filthy old dog bone from the toy bin and drop it on the hardwood floor next to my head. Of course he only did that when I was drifting my way to actual sleep. If I didn’t get up, he’d gnaw and slobber on that disgusting bone like a one-toothed hobo. I’d have no choice but to get up and feed all the dogs in a muffled rage so I wouldn’t wake Liana.
* * * * * * *
One winter, a couple came into the shop. Reagan and I greeted them warmly and they greeted us back. Then they clapped their hands over their mouths, swiveled, and ran straight out. Upon further inspection, we found a massive, freshly-laid Buddy-crap in the corner. It smelled horrific. Buddy was unapologetic, if not smug.
* * * * * * *
He was arthritic and sickly and abandoned by his family. He had allergies to a whole range of things including pollen. His body was misshapen and covered in skin tags and tumors. He couldn’t fetch and he pooped indiscriminately. He wasn’t a snuggly dog. He was an inconvenient pain in the butt and he cost us thousands of dollars at the vet. And he was very dumb.
Buddy had a strange life. From his inbred conception at some California puppy mill, to his sickly early life as an enormous inconvenience, to his charmed yet feckless life after winning the Doggy Lottery with us. Some might say Buddy’s whole life was ridiculous and didn’t amount to a hill of beans.
But he was our dog. And we loved that hill of beans.
On that day….
I came back to the Southport Cabin around 1:30 with all the dogs. I was exhausted and wanted to take a 15 minute nap.
In keeping with Buddy’s knack of making everything difficult, the second I laid my head on the couch he started barking.
I got off the couch furiously and went over to see what TF Buddy wanted. He flinched away from me like he was afraid. That hurt me so much. What an asshole I was. Not there. Not on that day.
I rallied and put the lifter on him so he could go to the lawn for a pee and/or poop. After an eternity of waltzing around the lawn, I realized he wanted water. I brought him back into the cabin to his water bowl where he drank a long draught. I brought him back to his couch, took off the lifter, and reset his diaper. He seemed happy and licked my hand with his huge, gross, sloppy tongue.
I went to the kitchen and took “The Huge Sirloin Steak” I got from Pinkhams Market for him. I seasoned it and put it in the air fryer. When it was done, I cut it up on a large platter and I sat down on the floor next to Buddy.
I fed him absolutely huge pieces of steak over and over. The other dogs formed a small circus around me. I fed them much smaller pieces. Certainly smaller pieces than I fed myself. The serving plate was licked dry.
After “The Huge Sirloin Steak,” I split up some Landjagers (Smoked German sausages- the only bit of human food Buddy ever stole). I cut it up and shared it as best I could with all the dogs. Then we all played some High-Fives. Buddy was the best of them all.
I sat there with Buddy on the couch as the sun got low on the water. I rubbed his head and got pretty maudlin. The other dogs scattered when there was no more food. It was then I remembered the enormous freezer-burned Rib-Eye steaks I had in the freezer from 2 years ago. I fired the air-fryer back up.
* * * * * * *
When Liana and Dr. Domeyer showed up, I was at the center of a Rib-Eye feeding frenzy. I offered Dr. Domeyer and Liana particularly juicy pieces of steak. They demurred. I obliged by stuffing them in Buddy’s waiting mouth.
Dr. Domeyer put Coal down for us. And he did it with such feeling and professionalism we didn’t worry about Buddy. He explained everything. He cared. We were in good hands.
I fed the last great chunks of medium rare Rib Eye to Buddy. He gobbled them down greedily and smacked his lips royally. We were both stuffed to the gills with steak. Buddy put his head down on the couch and closed his eyes. I saw the rabbit scar on his nose and I remembered.
Liana’s hand was on his belly. My hand was on his head. He was looking at me sleepily. The needle went into his leg and he flinched. He looked at me and put his head back down. He was full of prime cuts of steak and he was sleepy. He looked like he needed a cognac and a cigar.
It was then that Dr. Domeyer pushed the plunger.
Buddy’s brown eyes were on mine. I looked into them. I’d like to say that I saw something, but I didn’t. His paws stopped twitching. I looked back into his eyes and I knew Buddy was gone.
I kept staring into his eyes. My hand was still on his head. Liana’s hand was still on his belly. She was crying. I was crying. We had no idea how long we were with him in that state. Dr. Domeyer closed Buddy’s eyes one last time. That’s when we left Buddy.
We got up and I thought it was the end. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Dr. Domeyer lift Buddy’s limp body from the couch to be cremated. I lost my shit. I was a little baby and the sobs shuddered through me like huge uncontrollable tides. Liana and I held each other.
It was done.
Don – Not a Dog