Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Preview for Final Journey: Buddys' Book
After the publication of "Finally Home," Buddy was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Once the unthinkable happened and Buddy's precious life was cut short, his family was left heartbroken and devastated.
At the same time, in another state, poor economic conditions forced another family to give up their golden retriever.
As fate would have it, his name...was Buddy.
While they were mourning the loss of their beloved dog, another dog was mourning the loss of his treasured family.
Brought together by misfortune, they entered each other's lives to help put back together the pieces of their broken hearts.
This story is for both Buddys, producing the subtitle "Buddys' Book."
Copyrighted © 2010 Elizabeth Parker
The First Day without My Buddy--Prologue by my husband, Michael
This is a story about a gallantly brave, smart, and incredibly loyal and most loving Golden Retriever. For those of you who first looked at this title and were interested, chances are, you are a dog lover at the least. But this is more than a dog story. It’s about the most unlikely, yet most beautiful friendship that has ever existed.
This is an old question, an adage, really, that asks about a broken heart, or a heart that has never been opened. Is it truly better to have loved and lost? From the first person perspective, there is no doubt, for at this time, the loss has not even occurred, but the thought of my best friend passing on is nearly more that I can bear.
How many times have you been hurt, in a day, month or even a lifetime? Did you ever notice that watching a sad movie with a soundtrack that rips the tears from your eyes and makes you shake uncontrollably, brings back feelings of loss? And yet afterwards, maybe even a fond memory or two comes back, and the one feeling that surpasses all is relief?
Let’s face it; life expectancy in itself is a pretty morbid thought, right? So, humans are born, grow, learn about the past, look toward the future, experience regret about the past, and fear the future as it slowly (for the most part) ticks away. There are dogs I know personally, who contemplate the same, only their thought process goes in theory seven times quicker than ours, or at least that’s the latest, approximate calculation used. Therefore, to use round numbers, my eleven-year old Golden should have been collecting his social security benefits, after a productive life of stealing and relocating footwear throughout wherever he decided was appropriate at that moment in time.
Commitment is a strange word that strikes fear into the hearts of many, and mostly men. Of course, a thirty-something male is usually more concerned about making a form of long term commitment to another human, instead of a dog. But, in learning about the availability of a one and a half year old, purebred male Golden Retriever, I was anxious to meet Buddy in a neighboring town of a friend through a friend through a friend kind of connection. The fact that Buddy had already been through three homes in his short life, and had nearly as many names, didn’t discourage me.
Dogs are interesting, and extremely intelligent individuals. Probably the most important word in that sentence is individuals, for each is indeed his own personality. There is a lot of discussion regarding a dog’s ability to adapt its own outlook to mirror that of its owner. When was the last time you heard about a human able to do the same of its dog? The beauty of a dog and most animals, is purity, for a dog cannot lie or hide its feelings, like too many humans can and are often forced to, for a multitude of bad reasons.
Buddy bolt forth like a lightning rod when I first met him in the basement of his previous owners, and toppled me over despite my initial and well thought out plan to get low to the ground in a squatting position. As this seventy-five pound bundle of Golden hair shot toward me, there was an instant bond, the way most stories are told about meeting their infant children for the first time. I knew the previous owners were caring for Buddy in the way most at least feed their goldfish, but that this dog had not experienced love in the sense of the way it was intended. So, wrestling Buddy to the ground, I buried my face into his broad chest, I gave him his first raspberry, a big loud one that stopped him from writhing for the briefest of moments and got my first Buddy look of surprise, the one that so frequently comes when I catch him off guard, with that puzzled look of “Dad?”
Buddy had found his family.
As time passes and we spend it with the people we want to surround ourselves with, a gradual understanding occurs. It is the lifelong balance and sometimes struggle for what some have called power, and not in the recently retired Fidel Castro dictator style of the word. Rather, it is trying to figure out where the pieces fit into the puzzle of life, putting the best organization together to get the most out of every minute, conscious or not, writing the best novel, or reading it, to the highest level of the simplest enjoyment.
And so it is with all, co-existing at a moment in time, if it’s two strangers smiling at an airport, an interaction between doctor and patient, fare and cab driver, black and white, yin and yang, balance in every sense of the word.
In their most canine of abilities, dogs look to a pack leader, sometimes referred to as the alpha, the one who will make the best decisions to ensure the well being of the entire family. Buddy was his own alpha, demanding (and receiving) attention when he wanted, but always underneath, the most lovingly, tender, and grateful creature.
Grateful? Have you ever seen the way a dog can turn from terror to timid in a moment when a scratch behind an ear is administered, or the morning goop from the eyes is cleared? Yes, it’s similar to a diaper change, I guess, but it doesn’t require anyone to teach it how to eat, even from a plate and doesn’t need utensils to get the job done. Don’t think for a minute that I am reducing the pleasure that potty-training can bring when your three-year old can point to the toilet and exclaim with a smile “Doo-doo!”
Love exists in so many forms. Appreciation is kind of that back seat driver to Love, he’s the one who says, you need me to get to Love, and it’s a one way street with many potholes along the way, not to mention construction, bad drivers and rush hour. But the purest of love is a bond between a human and a dog. There, it’s done. If you disagree, you can go back to the in-flight movie, which means I’ve probably got your attention for at least another hour, since your headset jack is probably broken, or you’ve seen Million Dollar Baby for the third time already.
Of course, to get to Appreciation Avenue to find your way to Love Street, you must first take Respect Boulevard. It took a long time to locate the on ramp to Respect, however Buddy and I got there, and not without our own share of wrong turns and traffic violations. Mutual respect between any two individuals is the toughest and most important achievement in any successful relationship. With Buddy and I, it sometimes took yelling (not effective), punishment (banishment to what amounted to a very comfortable crate was hardly tough love) and complete and utter exhaustion from both of our sides (the ultimately humbling experience).
And yet when I look forward to the future that I am so scared of, it is without my Buddy that I am most fearful of. Can you be soul mates with an animal? Does it make sense? I saw my son getting older, a little slower, a little less energetic, and I felt saddened. The likelihood of outliving him was great, but will I truly live and love again, this purest of creatures, this uninhibited and generous heart? I spent as much time with him as I could, not so much as to beat the clock which is unbeatable, but to try to show him that I appreciate him. You don’t have to stay on Love Street, you know, sometimes it’s a good idea to window shop along Appreciation Avenue, too. And yes, take your time to turn off on to Memory Lane; it’s perfectly fine to visit the past, but just don’t live there, the rent is astronomical, and then you really do become a creature of habit.
If you have a dog, give it some extra attention, not just today, but at least once every day. Tell him or her that you love them and show it. Life goes on, with families, children and work, but be sure to balance your life and make sure those who have been loyal and stood by your side even when you haven’t smelled the best should be rewarded with a rawhide chew stick once in a while. Don’t you treat yourself, maybe more often than you should?
If you don’t have a dog and recognize that you don’t have the time, consider volunteering or getting together a fundraising effort. OK, maybe that’s just too much, then write a small check, or pet the next dog you meet. You see, he’ll get it. And maybe you will, too.
When my Buddy looks down upon me, and I know he will be looking down from Above, wherever that may be, I know he will smile, because his memory will always be with me, and when I see another Golden to remind me of him, it will always be the best of memories and a smile to last a lifetime. And maybe, just maybe, he’ll have a shoe in his mouth.
When somebody dies, a cloud turns into an angel and flies up to tell God to put another flower on a pillow. A bird gives the message back to the world and sings a silent prayer that makes the rain cry. People disappear, but they never really go away. The spirits up there put the sun to bed, wake up the grass, and spin the Earth in dizzy circles. Sometimes you can see them dancing in a cloud during the daytime when they're supposed to be sleeping. They paint the rainbows and the sunsets and make waves splash and tug at the tide. They toss shooting stars and listen to wishes. And when they sing wind-songs, they whisper to us, "Don't miss me too much. The view is nice and I'm doing just fine."
Chapter 1-Buddy's Golden Years
The relationship between an older dog and their human family members is one that cannot be emulated.
When my husband and I had first met Buddy, neither of us knew that he would make such a profound and positive difference in our lives.
At first glance, he was a typical, healthy puppy, full of boundless energy, living to eat, play, poop and sleep, not necessarily in that order. Wild with adrenalin, this crazed dog would be ready for almost anything, usually involving theft and some type of endless chase.
During the years that followed, we learned that he was much more than that. He was definitely a puppy in every sense of the word, but he also was a free-thinking, methodical, mischievous, calculating, high-strung, and for the most part, a comedic dog.
In the humanized sense, you might go as far as to call him a juvenile delinquent.
As he approached his senior years, he was still crazy, but smarter, excitable yet tamer, and definitely mischievous, but with the purest and most innocent heart.
His wild antics started from the day we adopted him and rarely did he ever take a break. I would swear that this dog would privately stay awake at night thinking of interesting ways to do something naughty and then send everyone on a wild goose chase the following day.
If dogs could read, I envisioned him sitting in the parlor, under a book lamp, reading a manuscript titled something like "How to Drive Your Human Parents Crazy in Ten Days or Less." In doggy world, it would have been a best seller.
From stealing and hiding footwear, to opening secured purses and knapsacks only to rummage through them and pick out a prized item, to breaking into the neighbors' houses, not once, not twice, not three times, but FOUR times with three different neighbors in two different states, he definitely gave us a run for our money.
Although, he was given to us for free, so I guess we had no right to ever complain about him!
It was safe to say that Buddy had always been more than a handful, but as we grew to know him better, a certain transition took place right under our noses.
We went from being frustrated with him, to learning to understand him, to looking forward to seeing him after a long day, and before we knew it, we soon realized the fact that he was not just an ordinary dog. We were definitely hooked.
He had some distinctive qualities that would classify him as one of a kind. Since he thrived on massive chaos, typical training techniques would not apply.
Life was not always easy with him, as we had to make many adjustments, including the type of people we had over our house to visit and limited drives that we took with the dogs. We also had to make sure that our house was without any garbage pails or other attention-grabbing items that might be considered desirable to him within his reach.
In addition, a healthy portion of energy was necessary for us to chase him down busy streets when he escaped, along with the ability to make up endless excuses for when he chose to do something annoying that threw our tight schedule way off. In the beginning, he was notorious for chewing twigs in the backyard while running around for an hour, making us late for work or other essential appointments. By the time we were done getting the twig particles out of his mouth, we were already exhausted.
Those minor concessions were well worth it; however, as coming home to that cheerful golden retriever smile and hearing his adorable "Buddy bark" was something that we had grown accustomed to and it made us grin from ear to ear, even before we opened the door.
Just his mannerisms alone were enough to make us laugh. As with many dogs, he did aim to please and often wanted to make us proud.
He found little things to do in order to get our approval and sometimes, though he tried, the result might not have always been what we had hoped for.
One of those "things" happened while I was getting ready for work one day. There was a spider crawling on the rug and since spiders are one of the things that I am not generally too fond of, I started to carry on like a child, screaming and searching for an object for which to kill it. The spider wasn't small either; it might not have been the size of a tarantula, but it was large enough to see clearly from the other side of the spacious room.
Buddy, not knowing what I expected of him, saw the spider, heard me screaming and prancing around and he quickly came to my aid. He promptly tilted his face downward, stuck out his tongue, bared his teeth a bit and lifted the spider up into his mouth. He was so proud of himself and displayed that golden pride as he stood regally in the center of the room.
Little did he know that this attempt of chivalry would just make me more disgusted and horrified. It was at that precise moment when I cringed and screamed "Buddy, no, drop it!"
His face portrayed an expression of mass confusion as he tried to undo his attempt at helping me. He promptly spit out the spider and watched as it crawled away, probably now only on six creepy legs, instead of eight.
In what I interpreted to be his annoyance with my blatant instability, he started barking at me and jumping around in a circle as I gathered some courage and killed the deadly critter, (the spider, not Buddy).
Buddy was "yelling" at me the entire time until I finally gave him his deserved praise for his courageousness. I still remember his face as he spit out that spider. If he could talk he would have asked me, "just what the hell is it that you want me to do?!"
His expressive eyes spoke more than words ever could.
He was always a funny dog. When we traveled, we had dog sitters stay at the house to watch him and we would call them every day just to hear their interpretation of Buddy's antics. We were kind enough to give them instructions regarding the major issues with Buddy, but some things they had to find out on their own.
I had to laugh when one of our friends watched him and claimed that Buddy growled when he stopped petting him. We weren't surprised, as it was something he was notorious for doing. When we were home, however, we did not let him get his way.
It was never a vicious growl; it was more of an "I want more love" growl. It would normally be accompanied by a frenzied wag of the tail and probably a little intensified whine here and there. He was more than relentless and would not stop until we gave in.
It was those specific times when I loved to tease him and ignore him until he actually got up and demanded attention, the terrible mom that I am.
He would pop up from wherever he was sitting and start pawing at me to play with him, followed by a frantic hunt for something impressive to steal if I did not give in.
With Buddy, there was a five second rule and if you did not make an attempt to play with him within the allotted time, he would find a way to force you to chase him. We had always known that once he grew impatient and left the room, he would come back in with some forbidden article dangling out of his mouth. We just never knew what it was going to be.
He was never one to take no for an answer, which is why if someone was not a dog-lover, there was no way they could be a guest in our house!
I'm pretty sure that they always thought we were exaggerating about Buddy's strong and obsessive "retriever instincts." More often than not, whenever we used a dog- sitter, they would disregard Buddy's fascination with stealing and carelessly leave their personal items in his line of vision.
This was a no-no.
It always resulted in a frantic chase throughout the house in a feeble attempt to retrieve their cell phone, house keys, wallet, money, eyeglasses or anything else Buddy perceived to be of utmost value.
He would eventually give them up, fully slobbered on, only to grab the next desirable thing that got in his line of sight, while the poor unsuspecting soul would be concentrating on wiping the drool off of the first item.
It was safe to say, if that person was ever daring enough to dog-sit again, they would keep their possessions high and way out of Buddy's sight. We never had to tell them twice once they learned their exciting lesson on surviving days with Buddy.
Some dogs were happy just to be petted and loved for a few minutes, but that was not going to be sufficient enough when it came to Buddy.
He required much more than that.
He needed mental stimulation, ample playtime, wrestling, walking and then most importantly, some quality cuddle time.
The occasional obligatory pat on the head that I have observed some people try to get away with, just did not work with him.
Brandi was there to keep him in line, initiating her own playtime with him, and this was great for him as far as exercise and love went, but his incessant need for attention from his human family and friends superseded any other needs that this dog would want, aside from maybe food and water.
That might be the reason when he finally went to sleep at night that he loved to snuggle right next to us with blankets draped around him, while Brandi and Toffee preferred not to be bothered at all.
Brandi was happy to cuddle for a few short minutes before venturing off to her private corner by herself, whereas Toffee would sporadically come to cuddle throughout the night. It was almost as if they would rotate shifts, however Buddy was happiest when lying next to us and would stay there until we decided to move.
Especially during the colder months, Buddy would curl up in a ball making sure that at least part of his body was close to you and more often than not, he would position himself so that he could nestle his head right below our chin.
While somewhat uncomfortable at times, we never had the heart to turn him away. I had never witnessed a dog with so much fur stay under the covers for the entire night. It was where he felt safe regardless of the fact that he was a little warm.
His bizarre behavior is what led me to write my first book to be seen by the public eye, "Finally Home." I was able to fully detail his antics and thoroughly enjoyed writing it, as he sat by my side the entire time while I dug deep in my subconscious for all of the amusing episodes that we had the luxury to endure.
As I took a long, scenic stroll along memory lane, I marveled at how well we all adjusted and how we grew to not only tolerate him, but to love him more than life. Due to the constant havoc that he had caused during the first few years, loving him was something that we had never expected.
How is it possible that such a problem child could make two people fall in love with him?
I laughed as I wrote each paragraph and shook my head at what a lovable menace he was. It was hard to believe that by the time I wrote that book, we had already survived living with Buddy for over nine years, after adopting him at a year and a half.
After its publication, sales were starting to pick up here and there. As a new author, I was trying to promote it the best that I could and had begun distributing it in a few stores in town. It was a fun, exciting and uncertain time as I did not know what to expect.
The book was appropriately nicknamed "The Buddy Book" whenever anyone referred to it. Rarely did I hear anyone address it by its actual title, but still, things were going well. Even I was guilty of referring to it by its nickname after a while.
I was learning a lot about the complex world of publishing, promoting, advertising, publicity, book sales, book signings, book websites, social networking and other book-related events that I never cared about or even knew existed.
Buddy was up to his usual tricks, never stopping for a moment and continually hiding our belongings in various places throughout the house. We rarely knew what he had up his invisible doggy sleeves next.
Living with Buddy was always an adventure, one that we grew to love and appreciate.
Some things that he did were predicable, for instance, each morning, his customized alarm clock, consisting of his signature bark/howl woke us up without missing a beat.
Then again, some things were not so expected, such as him scoping our cluttered desks for something to steal when there was nothing worthy enough in his line of immediate vision.
In his senior years, he seemed to have a persistent desire to tear up our utility or other important bills for us. While it appeared to be a great idea on the surface, I'm not sure the collections agencies would believe us if we told them the common elementary school excuse that "our dog ate it!"
Almost approaching his eleventh birthday, he still had the energy of a two-year old puppy and did not show any signs of slowing down. We thought for sure he was fit as a fiddle, as he was still a little firecracker.
When owning a dog, you always worry about them getting sick or hurt. One of the major concerns with owning a large breed dog is that they are prone to getting hip dysplasia, which is known to have crippling effects or cause lameness in their limbs.
To do our part in preventing it, we made sure we walked him almost every single day. We had definitely succeeded, as his legs, hips and joints seemed to be in top-notch condition. His legs did not have an ounce of fat on them and seemed to be all muscle.
We still went on our long hikes, without him hesitating or wanting to take a break. It was on these walks that he would act as the camp tour guide, running up ahead of everyone to check out the scenery and anything that would be of interest.
We were amazed that he would go "off-roading" without us, trekking up the hillsides, climbing the rocks and running up and down the turbulent terrain, only to be completely fine and never winded.
Every once in a while he would turn around to look back at us to make sure we were still in his line of sight, before he would continue to run up ahead. Watching his ears flop up and down and his tail wag nonstop was the highlight of our hikes. It was the motivation we needed on lazy days when all we felt like doing was relaxing in front of the television.
Toffee and Brandi, his younger fur-sisters, would try to keep up but after a while, even they had to slow down the pace.
It was awesome because never once did he show any signs of arthritis or pain in any of his legs or joints. His legs felt solid and his energy level remained at a record high.
Brandi and he would still play-fight every day and Buddy would always try his best to win. We almost felt badly for him. You would think that after knowing his sister for so long, he would succumb to the fact that she would outmaneuver him and tire him out within minutes. She had some signature moves which included her ability to save up her energy until Buddy grew weary, and then she would give it her all.
I actually have a video of a younger Buddy stumbling like he was drunk after getting “beat” by Brandi. Though defeated, he would always try again later once he got his energy back. She was ready for him and taught him a lesson each and every time.
It was fun to watch and you could tell they were having a ball and were still as close as ever. They were like two peas in a pod and Toffee, who got nervous when they played, would sit on the sidelines and whine, waiting for it to all be over. She was never one for play-fighting; instead she preferred a calm and structured environment. At times when she was feeling a bit daring, she would run in the middle of their play-fight, grab the toy that they were "fighting over" and run back to the sidelines, hoping never to be noticed.
Once the playing was done for the day, the three of them would relax in the house, in whatever room we were in, enjoying the comforts of their safe and happy family.
Each dog had their own unique personality, with their own insecurities, hang-ups, quirks and temperament, yet they got along beautifully and each knew their rank amongst their pack. For the most part, they loved being together and if they needed a break they would simply venture off into another room.
It was a wonderful relationship and they were what made our small family complete.
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