I’m pining for canines. Let me explain.
A few months back I visited my friends Gary and Susan Allwardt. Before we could get to the usual social pleasantries, I was greeted by Wilson. Wilson is the latest addition to the Allwardt family. He is a used dog of suspect provenance that Gary and Susan liberated from the pound. Like Gary, Wilson has a low center of gravity thanks to his abbreviated Dachshund-like appendages. Unlike Gary, Wilson has the bounce of a terrier and the intensity of a border collie (well, Gary does have a bit of intensity).
Wilson presented me with a tennis ball, which apparently is a permanent accessory.
He nudged my ankles with the fuzzy saliva encrusted green orb until I picked it up and heaved it as far as I could. Before I could begin my conversation with Gary and Susan Wilson was back. Toss. Back. Toss, Back. Toss, Back. Finally, Susan picked up the ball and lured Wilson back into the house.
I miss Buddy.
A couple weeks later I ran into my friend Paul Burns as he was pulling into a parking lot. I hadn’t seen Paul for a couple months but had been in email contact when he told me that his dog simply dropped dead one day. There one minute. Gone the next.
Paul had a smile on his face and motioned me over to his car pointing to the back seat. “Look.” He said. Snugged into a basket was a puppy. A Labrador Retriever puppy.
I miss Buddy.
Growing up, our household was pet-free unless you count a cloudy softball-sized globe that held half-dozen anemic guppies, an Uncle Milton’s Ant Farm populated with a rather lethargic colony or a scruffy nameless feline that wandered into and out of our lives one golden summer. Pets were seen as a maintenance issue; another mouth to feed.
Dogs were generally an asterisk in my life; attached to others. That is, until Buddy.
Buddy was my non-retrieving black Labrador Retriever who hated water. Buddy entered my life in 1994 as part of a package deal. He came along with Chris, Laura and Brian and their mother Sandy. Thus, Buddy had four masters. I became the fifth. Buddy was often conflicted.
The multiple masters and an early puppyhood incident involving a well-intentioned but disastrous dunking in a swimming pool, which rendered him water phobic, resulted in a unique personality. As the years ticked on, the children exited the nest and my wife continued her traditional work life. I, who have never embraced a traditional work life, became as close to the alpha dog as Buddy would allow.
He came to work with me, often lounging on the sidewalk inducing passersby on Orange Street to stop and pet him. Friends came by just to take him for a walk. The nice thing about having a dog is that you always have a friend and companion and, unless you have a ferocious breed you are almost always sure to attract other canine and humanoid friends.
As Labs are wont to do, in his later life Buddy assumed the comfortable profile of a robust Russet potato. His increased girth and resulting diminishment of speed enabled his walks to be largely leashless, since I could easily catch up to him should he venture off his appointed route.
A few years ago the day came. And dog owners know exactly what I mean. 15-year-old Buddy could no longer walk without assistance. He had to be hoisted into the car. His ears perked up and his eyes lit up when he heard the word food or walk, but his body wouldn’t respond. It was time. Laura came out from the East Coast to say goodbye and together we wept as Buddy exited this realm and surely went to the place where all good dogs go.
A year or so later, I visited the Coon Dog Cemetery in northern Alabama. Amongst the makeshift memorials was one that fit Buddy to a tee. “He wasn’t the best, but he was the best I ever had”. I miss Buddy. I miss him every day.