My best four-legged friend and canine-American, Buddy, left this vale of tears last Wednesday night. He died in peaceful sleep, following an excruciatingly painful day and early evening.
My wife Betty and I were there to care for and comfort him as much as we could. Just before he lapsed into slumber, he scooted closer to me, placed his paws in my hands, rested his weary head on my foot, and looked up at me with pleading eyes. That was the last time I saw him alive. When we woke up early Thursday morning, Buddy was gone.
As Roger Caras aptly noted, “Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.”
For dog-lovers everywhere, these words express a timely and timeless truth.
Buddy helped make our lives whole for a dozen years. He and I were especially close. He was just as glad to see me when I came back from our mailbox as he was when Betty and I returned from a 10-day tour of California.
Buddy was also my constant companion on literally thousands of daily walks around Pleasant Cove and beyond. When I began to slow down with age, Buddy would wait for me until I caught up with him or he would come back to me to make sure I was all right. Sadly, in the last few weeks, our roles reversed. When Buddy slowed down, I waited for him until he caught up.
Two weeks ago, he stopped walking with me at all.
As a lifelong lover of dogs, I have learned firsthand how fleeting their presence among us can be, and how lasting their place in our hearts remains. Buddy came into our family, thanks to our good friend and lawn care expert, Terry Boren. Knowing Betty had recently lost her longtime canine companion, Jim Bob, Terry asked her if she would like another dog. After thinking about it briefly, she said ”Yes, bring me one.” When Terry brought an abandoned dog he had rescued, the labrador/border collie mix puppy came running with tail wagging to Betty, who greeted him with “Hey, Buddy!” To her pleasant surprise, that was actually his name. And the rest is history.
We may have many dogs in our lives, but if our dogs are fortunate enough, they will have only one human family to love and be loved by for life. Despite being abandoned, Buddy found that life with us, and the pleasure was mutual.
As I write this ode to my beloved Buddy, I find myself smiling through the tears. Precious memories of him lying contentedly curled up at my feet in our writer’s cottage come flooding back across the years. I am overwhelmed. So I will close with one of my favorite Hawaiian words, which has a double meaning: hello and goodbye. Aloha, my Dear Buddy and Happy Trails in Heaven.
Retired Army Col. Thomas B. Vaughn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.