My Love, I Won’t Forget You: A Tribute to Buddy the Dog
When I was seven years old, my parents allowed me to get a dog because I didn’t like sleeping alone. If I got a dog, I promised I would sleep with him instead. At the time, my parents and I lived in Texas. An older couple with two adult fox terriers recently found themselves with a litter of puppies. With too many to care for, they put out an ad: “$60 Fox Terrier Puppies to Good Home.” I remember the sea of puppies that surrounded me when we arrived. After some time, my father asked which dog I wanted to take home. I picked up a brown, black, and white puppy no more than five pounds and held him in my arms, “I want this one.” I rode home with my new best friend in my lap.
“What are you going to name him, Conner?” My mom asked me in the car.
“Well he’s going to be my buddy, so I’ll name him Buddy.” From then on, this small dog, that grew to twenty-five pounds at his heaviest, became my closest companion.
I think we love animals so much because they radiate love; they never hold grudges, they don’t say things that upset us. At worst, they piss on the carpet or throw up on the floor. And while it appears that we choose our pets, I really feel that they choose us. Dogs, in particular, have been our companions since before we were technically homo-sapiens. Scientists think that our relationship with the still-very-much-wild dogs was instrumental in our survival as a species. The cliche of man’s best friend is not only accurate but crucial. And while I am not a hunter-gatherer from thousands of years ago, Buddy was most certainly instrumental in my survival as well.
As Buddy grew up, so did I. Buddy was there when my parents were fighting. He was there when they divorced, when mom and I moved away, when we had no money for groceries, when I got into college, when we moved away again. When we traveled across the country, from North Carolina to California, and then to Texas, Buddy was with my mom and me. He was with us when we came to Iowa, built a new life. He was there when I went out of my mind, and more importantly, he was there when I came back. I didn’t realize how massive his presence was in our house until he was gone. The hours I used to love spending ‘alone’ felt empty and lonely without his loving presence snoring from my bed. The first four nights without him, I cried myself to sleep. Turns out I still don’t like sleeping alone.
Buddy was a unique personality. His sudden inexplicable yelps made all of our house guests fear they’d done something to hurt him. “That’s just Buddy,” we’d say. Dogs may not have vocal chords, but Buddy sure found his voice and he used it. Whether it was sighs and moans in response to excellent ear-scratching skills or high-pitched yelping in response to sudden movement, he made it known how he felt. Buddy was very adept at perceiving the energy a person brought with them. The more frazzled someone felt the more he would yelp around them. In the last couple years of his life, I became very aware of this. I observed him around the different people he came into contact with; his discerning eyes were constantly making assessments of their behavior and movements. But I saw his keen perception most clearly in his interactions with me: the energy that I brought to him, he reflected back ten-fold. If I brought love, he gave unconditionally. If I was frazzled or stressed, he would yelp if I moved my hand the wrong way. He taught me patience. He taught me how to pay attention to something other than myself. He taught me to be aware of the internal energy I’m holding that seeps out into the world. I was far from a perfect owner, but he was the best dog a girl could have ever asked for.
A moment I will cherish from his final days was on a Friday when I was home, taking care of him by myself. At this point, we knew he was dying. The vet had told me the day before that his kidneys were failing on him. On this day, he was sporadically shivering. An indication that he was in pain. I did what I could to make him as comfortable as possible and decided that a nice warm bath would be good. I had intended to bath him as always—place him in the tub and help him from outside of it where it’s dry. But after I filled the tub with warm water, I picked him up and instinctively stepped into the tub, clothes still on, and sat in the water with him in my lap. He immediately relaxed. It was such a simple moment; I just softly cleaned his fur and pet him lovingly.
The last week of his life, I think he knew. He kept looking directly in our eyes like he was just taking it all in. Over the next couple of days, he actually improved. He started eating and drinking on his own again; he was walking around outside long enough to pee two or three times. He did not go gently into that good night. But that seven-year-old girl holding the tiny puppy is now twenty-four and that puppy nearly seventeen when he passed.
Buddy traveled more than some people; if he were human, he could have gotten his license. I used to jokingly tell him it was time for him to get a job. It’s so difficult to say goodbye to him because he’s been in my life for most of the part of my life that I can even remember, which is to say he’s always been there. The time before Buddy is but a haze of foggy memories filled-in with stories I’ve heard. Growing up, through the highest ups and lowest downs, Buddy was always, unconditionally there for me. His quiet breath alone bringing comfort to me at any moment. He was a dog not everyone could appreciate or understand. He didn’t warm up to everybody, and as he got older, he started taking commands as suggestions. We would tell him to get in his bed ten times, and he would finally, begrudgingly, walk over to his bed, get in, and stand in his bed like, “Okay, I’m in it.” Then we’d spend two minutes tellings him to lay down, which he would—for about three minutes. Then he’d trot over to the couch and get his way because this mama has a soft spot. He was mah baby after all.
His death feels unreal; as much as I’ve cried and let it out, the first image in my brain when I open the door to my house is the image of him sleeping on the couch. Everything in me expects him to be there. Sitting at the desk in my room, it still feels like he’s on the other side of the computer screen, sleeping away on my bed. The flowers on my desk remind me that he’s not. There’s no reconciliation. He’s as one-of-a-kind as any person. But I’ve learned that there are many moments in life when you just move on. You don’t want to, it feels unnatural to, but eventually, it becomes clear that it’s what you must do, because you’re still here. And life, weirdly enough, keeps going. Yet I thank the stars that I was so lucky as to have grown up with a best friend named Buddy: my baby, my confidant, my cuddle-bug, my pain-in-the-ass, my Buddy Boo. Birdy. Boodie. Bubu. Pookie. My love, you will be missed and cherished always.