My roommate pursued getting a dog against my notions that she is incapable of caring for one. (She barely walks, loses her balance at times & just had cataract surgery on both eyes.) She had a notion that a dog would sit quietly by her chair, raising his head for an occasional pat. She had always put her dogs in the backyard, so he would dwell out there 70% of the time in a peace passing understanding, communing, perhaps with the black walnut, or passing clouds. She pictured being greeted upon coming home, gratitude with being fed & all good things as such.
I pictured walks, walks, more walks, feedings, a whipping tail, enthusiasm, quick stops right in front of walking legs & all those things. Guess whose picture took precedence for real?
“Buddy” walked into our lives after being abandoned somewhere in the desert about 26 miles away. He found his way to a ranch house, ignored the cow dogs, collapsing in their yard with bloody pads, ribs defined by starvation, emaciated & dusty. Perhaps abandoned, perhaps lost, perhaps left behind or jounced out of a truck bed – we will never really know. He had to have the strongest will to live, crossing who knows how many miles of unforgiving desert scrub. He’s a Beagle/Basset mix (we guess). The ranchers cleaned him up, fed him & set about finding him a home. The grapevine hummed & the call came here.
I said, “No, I’m not taking care of him, he’s your dog.” I learned my lesson well with my last dog, who grew from the world’s cutest puppy to a 70-pound behemoth at seven months. My then-landlords looked unhappily at his steady “growth spurt” & started talking about other properties available for rent. The clincher was that he did not care to bond with me, rather holding me in a gentle contempt as he squatted all over the house, gazing serenely at the pictures hung on the wall. Although he retained his beauty, people recoiled & other dogs slavered for a chance to demolish him – even teacup chihuahuas. I know I’m no longer a dog person & only one dog walked away with my heart back in the 70’s.
Buddy made his entry, suspicious of doors, balking at the leash, peeing with impunity wherever he stopped, & regularly left “Lincoln Logs” on her dark rugs. Abandonment (such as going to the bathroom) elicited howls of dismay & wild circles upon reunion, less than minutes later. He ate all the cat kibble he could find, drank the cat’s milk & generally poked the cat mercilessly at every opportunity with invitations to “just come play!?”
I walked him 4-5 times daily, foregoing my own health marches to drag & be dragged about town. He gazed longingly at all the mule deer, growled at the horses, attempted conversation with every dog in town whether on a leash or behind a fence & fell desperately in love with every human, close up or far away. He investigated every fourth rock, regularly scarfed up natural offerings of descriptions I can’t even attempt without a quiet revolt in my stomach. However, patience & the ability to make quick stops has resulted in his pottying outside about 75% of the time. He behaves on the lead until he doesn’t. He has turned into a good, dear, sweet, loving pet with a nocturnal bladder habit satisfied by poking his nose in my ear & banging his head on mine until I get up to walk him in the utter darkness between our town’s four streetlights.
Buddy leaves for his new (forever?) home on Saturday with a gent from down the street who drives a vintage Mercedes & plans to take him back & forth to Las Cruces each week. This gent’s last dog died in a car wreck, so I am not really reassured. He already has two large yard dogs adept at snarling while chewing cyclone fencing. But he is wealthy & can get Buddy fixed & cared for well. He really seems to have affection for our adorable little unmannered guy. He plans to hire an obedience trainer to iron out the tendency to stutter-step. Buddy won’t need much encouragement. He has the heart of a really good dog & wants nothing more than to have his head held at every opportunity.
Last night, we had our 1:11 jaunt, me in pj’s, an extra-large man’s baseball jacket, pink bedroom slippers, sans flashlight once again. He halted to listen for the stomping mule deer in our neighbor’s dark yard. I looked up at the black & diamond sky to see not one, but FIVE meteors flash by, like matches struck on the vault of Heaven. Five wishes granted for ten days of both frustration & the gentlest of love between us. This guy bonded to me.
I’m not sure who got the better of the relationship. I had a warm body-length pillow for those nights. He got peanut butter & bacon treats, regular meals, as much good water as he could hold & a workable familiarity with the entire town in four directions. Well, five, if you count the stuff he dug up to eat.
We all learned a lesson about age & finances & goal realities. Cussing morphed to cuddling, we have no more paper towels in the house…& Buddy doesn’t even know the change arriving on Saturday. May his life become one of close & in-kind warmth, relationship, joy, love, treats & all the walks his short legs & big black nose can handle.
Thank you, Buddy! Your adventure renews. May all your scents be rich & deep, all your people only interested in all the love you offer returned & may all your wishes also come true. You & I are both teachers, the only difference is the lessons learned.