Thursday, August 19, 2010
Finally Home Free Preview!
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Copyrighted © 2010 Elizabeth Parker
“…My first encounter with Buddy was at a festive New Year’s Eve party. I was dressed in my best outfit purchased specifically for this occasion while enjoying a delicious, freshly-mixed cocktail of vodka, cranberry and lots of ice. While involved in typical party conversation, I did not focus on anything else in the room around me, nor did I think it was necessary. I have to admit I did see him out of the corner of my eye, but it was just too late. I didn’t think he would actually do it, but there it was-that look in his eye and all too satisfying smirk on his face. There was absolutely nothing I could do. I tried to move out of the way, but it all happened way too fast. I went from standing up enjoying a drink and remarkable conversation, to having my mid-section pummeled by this giant ball of fur. He already had my free hand in his mouth pulling me down, tail wagging one hundred miles per hour and I was now wearing my delicious drink on my brand new clothes. Before I could gain my composure, Buddy was already off to the next victim…”
-- (coworker, upon first meeting Buddy)
There is a time in everyone’s life when they have been emotionally inspired or amazed by something that was completely unexpected. Sometimes it is so touching, that they want to share their experience with the world and tell their story.
This particular story is about a precious heart along with a free-spirited little boy who owns that heart. This little boy has expressive brown eyes, a beautiful smile, and golden-brown coat that he never takes off. He also has a huge pinkish-brown nose and four very fast legs. His name is Buddy. He answers to that…when he wants to.
Chapter 1-Summer of ‘99
Each plan in life is derived from a single idea. Some ideas start in the least expected of places during the least likely of times. When an idea snowballs and takes on a life of its own; that is when it becomes a reality.
It is safe to say that it all started when I was employed at a sunglass manufacturer as an Electronic Data Interchange Specialist. This is just a sophisticated title for someone who monitors the electronic transactions between the manufacturer and retail stores. It was a pleasurable job, one where you did not need to dress in uncomfortable business attire and though the salary was not great, it was somewhat respectable.
The people were fun, the bosses were friendly, the office was clean, and for the most part, it was a fairly decent job. It was here where I met my husband, Michael; we began dating approximately two years after I started my employment there in the summer of 1999. It was the typical story of two goofy twenty-something year olds with the same wise-ass mentality, sharing many of the same principles, views on life and, in Michael’s words (or pick-up line), we were both half-orphans. He had lost his Mom to breast cancer when he was at the tender age of four. I had lost my Dad to a job-related illness shortly after I had turned nine years old.
In the year 2000, after working at this company for three years, I decided to make a drastic change and start looking for a new occupation. Although I loved the job and the line of work I was in, rumors were circulating that our office was in the midst of closing down. I figured I had better be prepared and search for something just in case.
After reading the classifieds and modifying my resumé and cover letter over fifty times, I was offered a job as an assistant producer for a popular local news station’s weekend program. Even though the decision was a bit intimidating at first, I had reluctantly given my resignation letter to my previous employer, said my good-bye’s and started my journey on a new career path.
As luck would have it, just as I had begun to get acclimated and understand all aspects of the job including the software, technology, procedures, office politics, etc., I received news that this job was closing its doors, as well!
Needless to say, I was beginning to get a bit of a complex. I noticed a pattern and figured this time it would be wise to conduct some extensive research before moving on to my next area of employment.
After sitting at my computer and sifting through tons of verbose ads offering employment in various fields, I submitted my resumé to what I felt was going to be a respectable and a stable employer. I researched the company on the Internet, carefully read through their complex website and thought I had plenty of concrete detail to support my belief.
They had been in business for over twenty years and had multiple offices scattered throughout the country. I did not see any obvious red flags waving in my direction.
Needless to say, after interviewing with half of the knowledgeable staff in the technology department and making numerous visits to their office, I was finally offered the job. I was scheduled to start a little later that summer and looked forward to it. It was about time!
It was during these various job transitions that Michael and I were growing a bit closer in our relationship and discussing the possibility of living together. I was still residing at my mother’s house, however, and he had owned his own home.
After some lengthy conversations, we had also started toying with the idea of adopting a dog, more specifically a golden retriever. We had both fallen in love with their friendly, amusing temperament. For the most part, we would just take quick browses through puppy stores only to walk out a few minutes later. We were, after all, only toying with the idea. We were not even living together yet, so we were uncertain if were ready for the unmistakable sound of padded feet running through the house and through our lives.
During that same time period, a coworker of mine was making conversation and coincidentally asked me if I knew anyone who would be interested in adopting a dog. I wanted to raise my hand, jump up and down and scream out “Yes, me!” I managed to refrain from making a spectacle of myself, but instead tried to act cool without displaying too much enthusiasm. Of course, I couldn’t leave without trying to find out some information about the dog. The questions that followed and their relative answers could tell the entire story. “What type of dog is it?” “Ah, how old?” “Hmm, why are they getting rid of it?” “Boy or girl?” “Does it bite?” “Is it housebroken?” “Hey…what is the dog’s name?”
He was not certain of the specifics at that precise moment in time and probably did not realize that he was talking to an obsessed dog fanatic. He advised me that he would make it a point to speak to his friend and find out more detailed information. He also offered to describe a brief reenactment of his first encounter with this dog at a party his friends had thrown, (quoted in the introduction of this book). Incidentally, I figured he was exaggerating.
I got a surge of excitement about the idea and then quickly calmed myself down, meandered back to my desk, and tried to keep my mind focused on work. I did not think much more of it until I went home later that evening.
That night during dinner, I spoke to my future husband and casually mentioned the conversation that I had with my coworker, with no real intention of going to meet this dog. I did have my coworker’s phone number just in case, but didn't think we would entertain the idea as we already had so much going on in our lives already.
After discussing it for a while, we weighed the pros and cons and figured out a solution for each possible obstacle that we could think of. We reviewed our budget, our future together, dog sitters, work schedules, hours the dog would be left alone and many other topics regarding responsible dog ownership. After a couple of hours, we made a decision.
“Why not?” We agreed. Let’s just find out more about him. We figured there was no harm in just inquiring about the dog without making any real commitment.
After we cleaned the dishes and returned them to their allotted sections of the cupboard, we called my coworker that very night. As it turned out, he was going to be visiting this same friend’s house anyway, and we would be able to get all of the answers that we needed about the dog. We were still in the research stage and had no concrete plans of adopting until we knew more. A healthy dog could live as long as eighteen years or sometimes even longer, and it is definitely a strong commitment.
We called anyhow and asked all of the relevant questions. We discovered it was a purebred golden retriever. Coincidentally, this was the exact breed we were seeking.
Both my cousin and a friend of ours had owned this type of puppy, and we absolutely loved it. From both parties, we knew that the breed was best known for their well-behaved and goofy temperament, in addition to their beautiful, golden coat and communicative eyes.
This particular one was about a year and a half and was a male. He was up to date on his shots, neutered, housebroken and did not bite. “His name…is Buddy.”
Buddy. We had to see him even just to play with him for a little while. Why would anyone give him up? That was the nagging question. There had to be something else going on. This opportunity was too good to be true. No one in their right mind would voluntarily give up a beautiful, young and healthy golden retriever. After speaking with the dog’s owner, we made plans to go see him over the upcoming weekend.
That Sunday morning, we woke up early and stopped for some breakfast at the town diner down the block before making our way to the dog owner’s home in Long Island. As we drove down the tree-lined cul-de-sac, we pulled up to a beautiful, large Victorian house and parked our car at the bottom of the circular driveway.
Two young children greeted us at the door, and their mom trailed promptly behind them. We introduced ourselves and explained that we were there to meet the pup. The mother seemed friendly enough as she led us down the stairs to the secluded basement. We would soon find out that this was Buddy’s only room.
As we descended, we immediately noticed Buddy. He was utterly breathtaking, and it was easy to fall in love instantly. He was in the corner by himself quietly minding his own business and chewing on his slimy rawhide bone. That is until his ears perked up and he looked toward the stairs with his adorable eyes to notice us walking toward him.
Have you ever been in the ocean when the waves were so high you could not keep afloat, and it seemed like every time you caught your breath…another wave came to knock you over? If so, this is the best way I could describe Buddy’s initial reaction to us.
With his rawhide bone dangling out of his mouth, he started barking as soon as he caught eyes with us, ran and jumped on us like he had never seen people before. For those of you who are familiar with that golden retriever smile, it was broader than I had ever seen. He kept tossing the bone up in the air a little bit, not quite letting go, but not quite wanting to hold it. He was indecisive about whether he should keep his bone or bark…so balancing the bone between his teeth, he did both. He was absolutely overjoyed.
We still could not comprehend why these people were getting rid of this bundle of love. His fluffy tail was wagging a million miles per hour and he was completely in his element. All this dog wanted to do was love and be loved. It was written all over his furry face. He was absolutely beautiful.
He developed this incredible tone in his voice that was not quite a cry, not truly a bark, but something in between. With his bone still in his mouth, he uttered a noise I had never heard before, which would soon become known as his trademark “Buddy-bark.”
To describe it would be somewhat ridiculous, and I am certain that spell check will not like it, but I will certainly give it a whirl. It sounded something like “a woo woo woo woooo wooooooooooo,” the last "woo" carrying a somewhat higher, more intense, uneven pitch than the others.
As the owner struggled to control Buddy, she attached his chewed up leather leash to his collar and began to give us some background on him. We could immediately tell that she was desperate to find him a home and that she had no control over this dog whatsoever.
She explained that they had tried to surrender him to Golden Retriever Rescue, but there was an extremely long waiting list and there was no room yet for Buddy. She was already his second…and then his third owner.
His first owner had given him up because he was way too big for a small apartment. The current owners admitted that they had also given him up to someone who promptly returned him a day later. They regretted that they could not handle him and exclaimed “good luck!”
If we did decide to adopt him, we would essentially be his fourth owners. “If” being the operative word. If we did not take him, they were going to have to surrender him to a shelter. They were running out of choices.
The owners did the right thing by trying to find him a good home, but unfortunately had no luck in their search. People had come to meet him and were immediately turned off by his neurotic mannerisms and excessive barking. He was getting too difficult to manage, and they were ready to give him up. It was the usual sad unwanted puppy story; his time was essentially running out.
Different shelters follow different rules, but there are some kill shelters that give the dog a certain period of time until they get adopted. If they exceed that limitation, they are put to sleep. There are just too many stray dogs and not enough facilities or financial means to accommodate all of them.
We needed to uncover what the catch was. He must have been vicious, and they were just not telling us. Or, perhaps he had some extreme medical condition in which they did not want to disclose to us. He appeared to be healthy and seemed like a normal, yet overly energetic year and half old pup. He did not act ferocious, although some dogs do tend to show their true temperament under different circumstances.
We asked some more specific questions, such as how he was with kids, dogs, men, women, etc. To all questions, she answered pretty much the same thing. “He was fine, never had a vicious episode, just a bit hyper.”
We inquired about his behavior while he was on walks and how he acted in the car. She answered that she did not know as they never got the chance to take him for either.
He was let out in their backyard, but did not have the ability to run around at all to stretch his legs because there was no fence around the yard. On an average day, he was walked back there on a leash to do his business and then was immediately put back in the lonely and dark basement.
After questioning her on the personality of this dog and wondering what his main issues were, we were still not seeing the entire picture. We pressed on a little more to solve the mystery. He was definitely an excitable dog, but we figured it was only because he was happy to see new people.
She simply explained that they were giving him up because she and her husband worked long hours. It was difficult to entertain this dog after a long work day. In addition, he chewed a lot and jumped a lot. “He jumps on the kids. He jumps on company. He knows his commands but does not obey them. He eats a variety of things that he should not be eating.”
She recalled how they came across him eating the children’s building blocks, crayons and other objects for which they could not properly identify. He was a little wild and a lot out of control, so they had him on medication to calm him down…sort of like a puppy Prozac. He was a year and a half, still more or less a puppy.
The puzzle was slowly beginning to get pieced together. A puppy locked in the basement for twelve, lonely hours each day without any chance to run free had unreleased energy. Hmm, wouldn’t you have acted the same way?
We were there long enough to take notice in their futile attempt at training techniques. When he jumped, they gave him a treat to get him down. When he mouthed us or anything else, they gave him a treat to remove his mouth.
We recognized an immediate pattern. The owners did what they thought was right in getting Buddy to behave. What they did not count on was that this dog was highly intelligent and realized exactly what to do to get a treat. Knowing this, he did the things he got rewarded for doing; good or bad. Many unsuspecting owners might have done the same thing. It is a common mistake, and it happens all too often. You can’t fault someone if they are not used to dealing with an incredibly smart dog. The problem is that when training an intelligent dog, they will easily learn how to manipulate any situation to get precisely whatever it is that they want.
The hard truth is that a dog acts the way that it does because it was actually trained to behave in that manner. Most people cannot accept this fact, but it is true. If you had a dog since it was a puppy, you are the only master, aside from its birth mother, that the dog has ever known.
Unquestionably, this was the case with Buddy. He associated committing these bad behaviors with getting some yummy doggy treats! He was not necessarily a “bad” dog. He was just doing what he learned and interpreted in his little, intelligent mind to be “good” things.
After a few more enjoyable moments of sitting on the cold floor with this charming, playful pup, we thanked the couple for allowing us to visit with Buddy and went on our way.
Covered head to toe in dog hair and a good portion of doggy drool, we walked up the stairs and out of the house into the frigid December air. Buddy was still jumping and clinging to us on our way out, and we could still hear his desperate barking as the door closed behind us. I was thinking “No way.” There was no feasible way we would be able to accommodate the needs of this crazy, disobedient dog. I was already onto my next thought of what to do for the remainder of the day, not even thinking that adopting him was a remote possibility.
When we reached the bottom of the driveway, I playfully posed the question to Michael. I just wanted to gauge his reaction and wholeheartedly expected him to laugh. “So, what do you think?” His answer, however, was the complete opposite of what I was expecting. “Absolutely, let’s adopt him.”
When I heard his response, I got a bit lightheaded and immediately started to have a lack of confidence in my dog training ability. To say I was stunned is an understatement. I never predicted that to be his answer and still just looked at Michael to try and determine if he was serious. Why was he even joking like this?
I love all dogs, regardless of the breed, but Michael had never owned a dog. I thought this one would be a complete turn off. I envisioned Michael’s “starter dog” to be somewhat calm, well-behaved and easy to manage. Instead, his reply was “Let’s call them first thing tomorrow to let them know we will adopt him.”
While I was undoubtedly thrilled with the idea, I still had my concerns about handling such a crazed animal. Growing up, we had many family dogs, but I was the youngest in the family and never spent time training them. They just always seemed well-behaved. I usually just spent time playing with them and never questioned it. This would be my first real test at responsibility, and we would have to figure out how to train him. He would not just “magically” become obedient. Was I up for the proposed challenge? Was Michael?
Still in awe and feeling mixed emotions consisting of both joy and trepidation, I made the phone call once we got home rather than waiting until the next morning. With an obvious tremble in my voice, I let them know that we would happily adopt Buddy. Little did I know that one phone call would be the one to change our lives.
We made plans to pick him up on Thursday evening after work. I could not ascertain why, but I was nervous all week and could not wait to get him. I felt like I was expecting a baby, albeit an eighty pound baby with lots of fur, but a baby nonetheless. I was also extremely happy. I don’t think I had slept at all that week!
I recall that I had stopped at a local pet store prior to his adoption and walked up and down the aisles in a cosmic daze. Without knowing what he liked, I picked up a small bag of food, a variety of treats, stuffed animals and various squeaky toys of different shapes and sizes. I could not concentrate in anticipation of adopting this crazed pup.
We cleaned the entire house and doggy-proofed it the best that we could. We had it all meticulously planned out. Michael, his niece and I were going to take two cars. Michael would drive his home with the crate and all of Buddy’s belongings. Michael’s niece and I were to drive home with Buddy. We would then have a few quality hours to spend with him during the night.
What do they say about the best thought out plans?
Chapter 2-Thursday December 21st, 2000
The shortest day of the year. The official Winter Solstice. The longest drive home. The day Michael and I officially became insane.
We asked if she would like us to wait for the owners and their kids to come home so that they could officially say goodbye to him. Her answer was pretty firm, “No, Buddy probably would not even recognize them to say goodbye.” We just stared at her for a minute or two in disbelief. We then caught on and understood. This family was just happy to let him go. We found it a bit disheartening that his own family would not say goodbye, not even the kids, and our hearts immediately went out to him. We had said our brief goodbyes to the woman, received some hand-written instructions, a few more veterinary papers…and Buddy.
I do commend them for their sincere effort in searching for a home for him and making sure his health was not neglected in the interim. Some people have been known to dump their unwanted dog in some remote area, left by themselves to fend for food, shelter and protection, or even worse. At least these owners ensured that his required veterinary visits were followed.
As we ascended the basement stairs en route to the car, Buddy did not seem to have a care that he was leaving. He hopped the steps two at a time, all of the while, panting, tugging on the leash and wagging his fluffy tail. This all seemed to be a good time to him…or maybe he just knew something that we did not.
We loaded all of his belongings in Michael's car and put Buddy in the back seat of my own. I had owned many dogs growing up so I was quite used to driving with them as a passenger. This was not going to be any different, or at least that is what I had thought. I never seriously contemplated it until I actually made my first attempt to drive.
I had driven approximately fifteen feet when I was forced to stop my car right there in the middle of the road without any warning. Michael stopped next to me in his car and was looking at me, curious to find out what in the world would cause me to just stop like that.
That is, until he noticed the eighty pound dog with his paws wrapped securely around my neck from the back. I simply could not move. The only choice I had was to stop. I could not even turn the steering wheel.
Buddy was so excited that he was jumping back and forth from the back seat into the front seat onto our laps, and he wrapped his two front paws around my neck giving me the biggest bear hug he could muster. Lesson learned: Do not ever doubt the strength of golden retrievers.
With that, once we peeled Buddy’s huge paws from my neck, we had to resort to an unplanned, but very necessary Plan B.
Michael had to park his car on the side of the road and come into the back seat of mine to control Buddy. This is where we learned that the words “control” and “Buddy” were never to be used in the same sentence again. It simply would never work out that way. These were only the first few of many lessons learned by owning an overly rambunctious, highly intelligent eighty pound golden retriever. I was slowly starting to understand the very reason it was not easy to place this dog in any sane home. I suppose people that were in their right minds recognized that this overexcited dog was insane!
That was our initial thought as well. Our second thought was, “Hey, let’s just put him back in their yard and take off. They will notice he is there some time tonight, and they can go back to the tedious job of finding him a home.”
We sat there and stared at each other, trying to read each other’s thoughts, while dreadfully listening to Buddy’s exhilarated panting as he jumped from seat to seat, from person to person. After ridiculously toying with the idea, we decided against it. Though, make no mistake, we still had our doubts.
The ride home was not enjoyable one bit. Emotions were flying high consisting of anxiety, lack of common sense, dread and a severe sense of regret. We lived about twenty to thirty minutes from Bud’s old home. Typically, on an average day after rush hour, you could jump on the expressway and drive about 55-60 mph. I think I broke every traffic law that night and made it home in exactly twelve minutes.
The last thing I remember about that wearisome car ride was that my soon to be husband was literally wearing Buddy as a fur hat. He had managed to climb up, balancing himself between the rear window and the top of Michael’s head, so that the only thing I was able to see in my rearview mirror was this pup’s enormous body. I could barely make out Michael underneath all of that golden fur. The only evidence that he was still back there was the occasional sound of him yelling “drive faster!”
The single possible chance of making it home alive was based on giving Buddy treats, following the destructive pattern that had been the foundation for his bad behavior. We fed him an entire jar of treats in those seemingly-long twelve minutes. I truly believe that Buddy was merely testing us to see how long it would take for us to emotionally break down like his previous owners had done.
It was an exhausting night to say the least. We still had to drive back and get Buddy’s crate. There was no way we were able to let this pup roam free at his leisure during his first night. I had picked the short straw and ventured back out into the cold December night to get his crate, while Michael and his niece made their first courageous attempt at training Bud.
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