On Thanksgiving and Puppies and Old Age

I have so many things in my life to be thankful for.  There’s the easy stuff – my family, my health, my friends.  There’s the stuff that’s harder to define – the things that you have to work for but in the end, were either blessings in disguise, or lessons that needed to be learned.

I watch my friends post various things about Thanksgiving, from how blessed they are for their family, how much they love the things around them.  And all the pictures of their happyness.  And I know mine is coming, building up somewhere inside me, but it hasn’t quite materialized until today.

The easy stuff is, well, easy.  I love my family so much it hurts sometimes.  I can’t imagine what my life would be without them.  I had a thought the other day, wondering if my life was what I imagined it to be, “back when I was younger.”  Which led to some serious cookie-eating, because “back when I was younger” isn’t supposed to have happened yet.  I’m still young – in my mind anyway.  But the body lets me know that time is moving on, quietly, and quickly.  There’s not a thing I can do about it, but learn to appreciate the people in my life, and my life for what it is in this moment. And the hope that I have loved others as much as they have loved me.

And that is the lead-in that I needed.

We will be saying goodbye to our Buddy-dog this week.  This last August, he celebrated what we believe to be his 16th birthday.  When we adopted him from the SPCA, the vet estimated that he was about 18 months old.  He was scrawny and ugly, and had been on the streets for quite a while.  His SPCA name was “Atropolis.”  Horrible name.  I lobbied for “Dee-Oh-Gee” (Dog, just spelled out), but the boys had the final say. He was a rescue dog – but I would argue that he rescued me.  He came to me at a time in my life when I needed unconditional love – and that’s exactly what he gave me.

“Buddy,” said Matthew (who was almost 5 at the time).  “He’s going to be my Buddy, so that’s his name.” And that was that.

In the beginning, he was just a mess.  I trained him to a degree – he could sit, and lay down, and jump up.  He ran all over the backyard, and would chase the lawnmower, barking and trying to bite the tires.  He is a shepherd/collie/mutt mix, and he liked to herd his little humans.  If they were in the backyard playing with him, you could watch, and see him trying to take them places.  He’d nip at Steven’s pants – I don’t believe he ever actually nipped him – but he was trying to push him to where he wanted him to go.  At 3, it was fairly easy.  And Steven was just about the same size.  Matt was a little bigger, so Buddy wasn’t quite as “in his face.”  But he was right there with him.

We have a lot of Buddy stories.  He would chew on everything.  EVERY thing.  I think he chewed through at least 3 wiring harnesses to Larry’s trailer.  And probably 5 garden hoses.  At least.  And Larry would be so mad – he’d chase Buddy around the yard with the remaining ends of the garden hose, or with a spatula – whatever he had in his hand at the time.  Buddy would run – but just fast enough to be out of range.  It was quite the scene in the back yard, let me tell you.  We ended up putting in an electric fence with a shock collar.  Buddy would stay in the back, until we called him, and then he’d make a mad sprint across the line, because he knew he had so many seconds (10) before he’d get shocked.  So many times, it would start to rain, and we’d stand on the back porch and call him in.  And he would just fly across the yard.

Buddy was the one who taught the other two dogs how to roll around on the floor.  I haven’t seen other dogs do this, but Buddy was the master.  He’d push his chest down on the floor, with his rear up in the air, and just roll his head around.  All over the floor.  Now that he can’t support himself very well with his back legs, he’ll lay down on the floor, with his nose stuck out and his chest on the floor, and do the same thing – roll his head back and forth across the floor.  And the other two do it with him.

Buddy is my snuggle puppy.  Bear sleeps with us, and is right on top of me most of the time (he’s six pounds), and Daisy would love to snuggle, but her breath stinks. Buddy was my cuddler.  He’d lay down on the floor with me and just be with me.  He was such a fluffy dog that he was like a big pillow. The boys would lay all over him when they were little.

Over the last few years, Buddy has lost his hearing.  His humans have all adapted – instead of calling for him when he’s in the house, we stomp on the floor so he can feel the vibrations.  He can still hear high-pitched whistles, but not very well.  His sight is still good.  He had an episode last year with vestibular disease – doggie vertigo.  He couldn’t walk and he wouldn’t eat, he was so dizzy, and we thought we were going to lose him.  He probably lost 10-15 pounds and was on an IV.  After a week in the hospital, the vet was ready to let him go, but we took him outside to try to get him to walk. He wouldn’t walk or eat or drink for any of the doctors or nurses.  But he walked for me.  I overheard the vet tell Larry, “Well I’ll be damned.  Mom has the power.”  I asked if I could spend the day with him the following day, and then maybe take him home to family.  I took him a cheeseburger, and took him outside of the vets’ office and sat with him for two hours.  And he walked for me.  Bless him, he tried and tried, and he did it for mom.  I took him home that day, and he’s been with us for more than a year.

But it’s time.  I don’t think he’s in pain. Yet.  But his back legs are too week to hold him up for very long.  He struggles to stand up after laying down.  He struggles to lay down.  He will only eat soft food.  And he’s slowing becoming incontinent, although only when he sleeps.  This morning, he couldn’t get up without help, and after the last fall, his back legs spasmed, and he wet himself.  It’s time.  It’s probably past time, and I worry that we’ve waited too long because we were being selfish.

And it hurts SO much.  He’s loved us so much, and we have loved him, but we have taken him for granted. I only hope that he knows how much he has meant to us all these years, and how much we will miss him.

I will miss you every day, Buddy. I have loved you so much.


About Michelle Barton

Things I find myself asking or saying in everyday life.
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