Even though I’ve always had dogs, I’d never been much of a dog person until Buddy. I was always a cat lover.
He wasn’t even supposed to be my dog.
You might recall from a previous column, that I owned a Samoyed who was a problem because she would bite and growl at my children. When my ex-wife and I divorced, the Samoyed went with her.
My sons would still see that dog on the weekends when they were with their mother, and one day they came home and asked, “Daddy, may we please get a dog that likes us?” My heart went out to them, and I thought Every kid should have a dog that loves them.
“Buy a pup and your money will buy love unflinching.” (Rudyard Kipling)
I agreed, but said we would have to adopt an adult dog. I explained that because of my busy travel schedule that I would not have the time to train a puppy. I asked, “What kind of dog do you want?” They replied that they wanted a golden retriever or a border collie. So, I set them up to look at dogs on several rescue shelter websites. They kept coming to me with pictures of really cute puppies. I had to keep reminding them that we could only adopt an adult dog. Finally they found a rescue site with videos of dogs.
“No man can be condemned for owning a dog. As long as he has a dog, he has a friend.” (Will Rogers)
My sons called me to look at a video of a border collie fetching a tennis ball and playing with other dogs. Unlike the boring still photographs of dogs that most rescue sites offered, this video showed a dog that appeared to be both friendly and fun.
Unfortunately, the rescue shelter was over an hour away and was not open when the boys were not in school, so I had to go out there alone and make the decision of whether or not to adopt.
“If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you; that is the principal difference between a dog and a man.” (Mark Twain)
It was the easiest decision I ever made, Buddy was everything the video promised and more. He was friendly, eager to please, and loved to play fetch. My sons needed a dog that would love them and play with them. I adopted him on the spot.
“To his dog, every man is Napoleon; hence the constant popularity of dogs.” (Aldous Huxley)
Buddy’s first symptom showed up on a Thursday morning when he threw up on the front porch. It looked like his entire breakfast, and the kibble didn’t look much different than when I gave it to him. I didn’t think much of it; I’d grown up with dogs, and, well, they occasionally throw up. It was a few hours later when I went out for our daily game of fetch that I noticed that he had not gone back to it. That raised a red flag, but not a big one. Perhaps I was anthropomorphizing, but I wouldn’t go back and eat my vomit, so didn’t worry about it. I got the hose out and washed off the porch.
“A dog is the only thing on earth that will love you more than you love yourself.” (Josh Billings)
The evening after he threw up, Buddy turned his nose up at more kibble, but ate plenty of treats. But then the next morning, he also showed no interest in his regular dry dog food. He seemed okay other than that, so I decided to just keep an eye on him. That afternoon when it was time to play fetch, he seemed a little sluggish, so I decided not to run him, and just let him rest. He still hadn’t eaten his food, so I offered him some treats. He ate very few of them. Now that was odd.
“Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.” (Roger Caras)
Saturday morning Buddy struggled to get out of bed, but once he was up he seemed okay. He was still sluggish and had no appetite. My veterinarian was closed for the weekend, so I decided that if he wasn’t better by Monday, I’d take him in. Sunday morning he couldn’t get out of bed by himself. My son picked him up and carried him downstairs for me. I put him in my car and took him to an emergency veterinarian.
“Try to be the person your dog thinks you are.” (Unknown Author)
After a thorough exam, the doctor told me that Buddy was dying of some type of anemia. He said, the treatment would involve giving him a powerful drug that would shut down his immune system, so that they could give him blood transfusions without rejection. Then Buddy would need several weeks of chemo-therapy. It was a costly treatment, and the doctor said there was a good chance it would not save Buddy. I thanked the doctor, and decided to just take Buddy home and make him comfortable.
“Everyone thinks they have the best dog. And none of them are wrong.” (W.R. Purche)
When I got Buddy home from the vet, I placed his bed with a pee pad on it in the hallway between my office and the guest room. That way I could be with him 24/7 as we waited for the inevitable.
I put a water bowl by his bed and encouraged him to drink. An obedient dog, he drank every time I asked.
Every day I would offer him easy-to-eat baby food, and his favorite treats, but he still had no appetite. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday passed. I talked with him frequently, petted him, and told him how much I loved him. He just laid there unable to move.
On Thursday morning I cooked bacon for breakfast and my son offered a piece to Buddy. He ate it! I couldn’t believe it. I quickly cut up 2 slices of bread and soaked the pieces in the bacon grease. He ate all of it. A few minutes after eating, he tried to get up. I helped him stand for a moment then laid him back down. Then I went to the grocery store and bought several pounds of liver.
“The world would be a better place if everyone loved as unconditionally as a dog.” (Unknown Author)
I cooked the liver in bacon grease. Buddy ate every bite. And, remarkably he started getting better. I fed him a pound of liver a day, and every day he improved. He would stand and walk with a wobble, and I would hold him up while he peed and pooped. He continued to strengthen until after several weeks he was completely back to normal. That was 3 years ago.
Next week will be our 10-year anniversary. We still go out every day to play fetch. And, at this moment, my best friend is lying under my desk next to my feet as I write this article.
Every other dog in my life was always someone else’s dog. My first dogs were always my parents’ dogs. The two dogs I owned while I was married chose and preferred my ex-wife. Buddy was supposed to be my sons’ dog; they fed him, walked him, and played with him. But I was the one he chose. He became my shadow and followed me everywhere I went. In short, Buddy’s love turned me into a dog lover.
“Happiness is a warm puppy.” (Charles M. Schulz)