Buddy showed us that long-distance relationships work
If you’ve ever had a dog, you’ve been through the pain of saying farewell. It’s a pain that doesn’t go away quickly.
It’s been 50 years since I’ve had a dog of my own, but I did have a “granddog.” That’s “your” pet, but one generation removed. All the love and fun, but none of the responsibility.
Instead of dogs, my wife and I have shared our home with a series of cats. As a child, she had cats, a dog, and horses, but after the wedding, cats were easier to handle in our newlywed apartment.
I had some lovable dogs while growing up — Flopsie, a cocker spaniel, and Lady, a collie who looked like Lassie. During one summer in college, I had a mixed-breed puppy named Snoopy. Snoopy looked much like the Charles Schulz character in his “Peanuts” comic strip, and my younger sister adored all things Snoopy. She still does.
Snoopy was a rescue dog, and he had a reaction to his distemper shot when only a few months old. The veterinarian theorized that Snoopy had a dormant strain of the disease when we got him, and the shot triggered it. He was gone before the fall semester began.
In retrospect, that experience perhaps swayed me into thinking one way to avoid such heartbreak again was to not have a dog around. More realistically though, we felt too busy to properly care for a dog — feeding it, walking it, and doing all the other things you want to do with your dog.
Losing a cat can bring just as much sorrow, even though I’ve heard cats described — sometimes by country folk — as almost being “disposable.” You get cats to live in the barn and catch mice. If something happens to them, you get more cats.
It doesn’t work that way for us city folks. My wife and I become just as attached to our cats as others become attached to their dogs. And now, with two cats nearing old age or already there, we recognize that their years with us are numbered.
But this isn’t about cats. This is about Buddy, the piebald dachshund who was king of the mountain in our daughter’s home south of Austin. We liked to call Buddy our granddog, and a good granddog he was.
Buddy was always excited to see us when we arrived at their front door after a three-hour drive. He got so excited that we knew the first stop had to be at the back door so he could go out to fertilize the lawn.
Buddy knew it was suppertime five minutes before it happened.
Buddy knew how to work my wife for an extra treat.
In a sudden turn of fortune, Buddy became ill last week. Our son-in-law took him to the veterinarian. Perhaps he had gotten into some chocolate or something else that upset his stomach. Instead, the diagnosis was cancer. The humane thing to do was to end his suffering.
Because of our precautions during the pandemic, the last time I saw Buddy was in March when we house-sat for the kids over spring break, spending time with Buddy and their cat, Waylon, while they went to the beach. As it turned out, it would be the last time Buddy jumped up on their sofa to let me scratch his tummy, or perhaps so he could tunnel his nose into my pants pocket.
Dachshunds like to burrow. Buddy especially liked to burrow under the covers when we were sleeping.
Our son-in-law wrote the definitive reflection upon losing Buddy on his Facebook page, so I know I can’t come close to matching that. I’ll not try, but I will say this:
I will miss seeing Buddy when we go to visit, but not nearly as much as the kids miss him every day. Buddy was part of the family for almost as long as our daughter and her husband have been married.
In dog years, that’s a long time. Long, but not long enough.
Gene Deason is editor emeritus of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Fridays. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.