In July of 2010, I got a call at work from my wife Clara. She asked me, "Are you ready for another dog?"
A year earlier Lance had died. Another dog? In truth, I had been enjoying the absence of those grueling hikes that Lance forced upon me daily up until the last several months of his life. I also was enjoying the peace, quiet and safety after living with the “devil dog” for seven years (those familiar with Lance will understand). But, despite all he put me through, I loved Lance and, as a result of that fact, another issue arose in my mind: Had I grieved the loss of Lance sufficiently? What constitutes a respectful amount of mourning? How long should you grieve the loss of one dog before getting another?
Clara had phoned me from the local grocery store. There was a man in the parking lot that was trying to give away a puppy he had in a crate. He said if someone didn't take the dog in the next half hour, he was going to take him to the pound. He had bought the dog as a peace offering to his estranged wife. She told him she still didn’t want him, and she didn’t want the dog either. Apparently, he felt the same way about the dog. He’d had the dog several months but hadn’t given it a name.
How could I say no? That night, when I got home I was greeted by Buddy, a four-month-old poodle/ beagle mix.
The following morning, I was sitting on the stoop with our new dog. I absent-mindedly began massaging his rump. Buddy whirled around and grabbed my hand with his teeth. I yanked my hand away and thought flashed through my head The last dog I had was a terror and now this one appears to be too! Have I been wrong about dogs all my life?. A few minutes later when I explained to Clara what happened, she laughed, “ I took Buddy right to the vet yesterday and he got a couple of shots in his butt. No doubt it’s still sensitive.” I had to laugh at how Lance had conditioned me. :)
Like Lance, Buddy was very intelligent (was that his “poodle” showing?) Unlike Lance, and to my great relief, Buddy was happy to take a walk of only a couple hundred yards. Temperamentally, Buddy proved to be a complete 180° turn from Lance. Sort of the calm after Lance’s storm. He was a total marshmallow. Buddy didn’t bite his rescuers, or anybody else, for that matter. He befriended complete strangers in a matter of seconds. Though Clara was clearly his favorite, Buddy would occasionally hop onto my lap, just to let me know I was OK in his book too. Sometimes I think of him as our reward for having endured Lance.
Buddy was an absolute sweetheart. I am reminded of the time, while I was walking him at dusk, when we came to within a few feet of a deer standing alongside the road. Buddy did not chase after or even bark at the deer. As for the deer, he stood calmly and watched us as we continued to walk by him. I would think that typically in such a situation a deer would have headed for the woods long before we had gotten near him. I can’t help but think that Buddy projected a mellow aura that other animals picked up on.
A few months later, we were out walking, and Buddy was spooked and suddenly did a sideways leap. I looked down and saw what had startled him—a cricket.
On another occasion, I was walking Buddy and he started chasing a butterfly. When he caught up to his prey he turned and looked at me as if to say, “What am I supposed to do now?” I said nothing and Buddy followed his instincts—he let the butterfly go on its merry way.
One day in January of 2020, I had just started walking with Buddy when he collapsed to the ground. At first, I thought he had become paralyzed. He lay on the ground and looked up at me. His face wore a human-like expression that cried out What’s happening to me? I’m scared! What do I do? Help me! all rolled into one. Buddy got back on his feet, and we immediately returned home.
That same day Buddy was diagnosed with congestive heart disease. That called to mind an incident that occurred several years earlier. During a walk, Buddy signaled to me he wanted(in hindsight, needed!) to be carried the rest of the way home. I thought What a spoiled pooch! Now I realized he had been trying to send a warning I didn’t picked up on.
Dog ownership suddenly morphed into a day-to-day, minute-to-minute, second–to-second experience. Buddy began a regular regimen of visits to the veterinarian and an assortment of medications. We spent about $400-$500 a month on visits to the clinic and another $270 a month on medications. This was money that—as the saying goes—we didn’t have to spend.
Lance had kept us on edge because of his biting tendencies. Buddy now had us on edge because of his fragile physical condition. He suffered sporadic wheezing spells, gasping for breath, even while sitting or lying down. Clara and I could only watch and hope our dog wasn’t dying right in front of us. We became nervous wrecks, fearing the moment the other shoe would drop.
At night, Buddy began sleeping by himself on the living room floor. The vet said that in Buddy’s condition, the cool hardwood floor provided a measure of relief. When I got up each morning and came out of the bedroom, I was never sure if I’d find him alive or dead. I was afraid to turn a light on and find out. In the dark, I’d go into the kitchen to make coffee, praying that Buddy would show some signs of life. When I heard his tail begin to thump on the floor, my immediate feeling was one of immense relief. Buddy had lived to see another day! We were spending thousands of dollars and living on an emotional roller coaster just to hear a tail thump. Dog lovers know that’s a worthwhile investment.
On July 23, 2020, the other shoe dropped. Buddy was euthanized at the vet’s office. We have his ashes and will always remember Buddy, our goodwill ambassador.
If there is a Rainbow Bridge I expect Buddy has met up with Lance there. Hopefully by now, Lance has learned how to play well with others! If not, Buddy is the perfect goodwill ambassador to show him the way. Here’s how I picture that meeting of Lance and Buddy : Lance's Dog Patch Blog - Lance: A Spirit Unbroken (lanceaspiritunbroken.com)
Walter Stoffel is a substance abuse counselor and GED teacher in correctional facilities. When not behind bars, he likes to read, travel, work out and watch bad movies. Major accomplishment : He entered a 26.2-mile marathon following hip replacement surgery and finished—dead last. The author currently lives with his wife Clara, their dog Buddy (another rescue), and cat Winky (yet another rescue).