Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Buddy system worked, sort of

People would look at our dogs Lady, Buddy and Scottie, and they'd say, "Oh, what cute dogs!" They didn't know the half of it.

Lady's a mix of some sort that we got 10 years ago from the Guilford County Animal Shelter in Greensboro. They were calling her Lassie, but I changed it. She looked more like a sled dog than Lassie.

Lady's a generally well-mannered dog, and you can't help but wonder why she was at the animal shelter in the first place.

Scottie's a typical sable collie. He's a sweet dog, although he gets pushy about being petted.

But it's Buddy that stood out in our pack.

We got him as a five-month-old from a foster family near Graham, N.C. Buddy, then called Rudy, had been taken from his mother at four weeks old, and he had no idea how to deal with people when they're standing up. He didn't do much better when they were sitting down.

After we brought him home, he'd cringe in the corner, then make a mad dash to "safety" when one of us approached. If he were a boy, you'd say he was autistic. He didn't know that he was as safe with me as he'll ever get.

Buddy was funny. When he ate, he looked like a weed-whacker: Kibble would fly out of both sides of his mouth. He couldn't get enough fast enough. I guess he was afraid that Lady or Katie (our collie who died in 2007) would eat his food.

The foster family told us that Buddy was a Corgi mix. When he weighed only 35 pounds, maybe I could have seen it. But later he weighed nearly 70 pounds and was taller than Lady. Some Corgi.

After six years or seven years and a lot of loving, he turned into a good dog, at least with my wife Holly and me. He'd sometimes ease over and bump his nose against my knee or lick my hand. Looking for handouts, of course.

Once, I was watching TV and Lady climbed up on the couch beside me. Katie, not to be outdone, jumped up on the other side, jamming us all together. It was snug, so I put my arms around my girls.

Suddenly, I felt a weight on my ankle. I looked down, and Buddy had placed his chin on my leg, with his eyes closed. When I shifted, he jumped up and ran. But he was learning, trying to be a real dog.

Still, he never made it all the way. He went nuts, super territorial, when someone mowed the grass or visited. And he wouldn't listen when you try to get him to calm down. Once, my sister-in-law was sitting in the dining area with my wife, and the door to the basement was locked. Buddy raced up the steps and hit the door so hard that he knocked it open. Fortunately, my wife kept him away from her sister.

Another time, an acquaintance and I were walking down the driveway, with Buddy going nuts, as usual. Our deck railing is about five and a half feet high, and Buddy was jumping so hard that you could see his tail over the rail. He looked like a non-Corgi on a trampoline.

Another story: Buddy was running in and out of the basement dog door so hard that I needed to slow him down. I slid the metal part of the door part-way down, thinking it would slow him to Lady's sedate speed. The next day, I was standing at the top of the steps and I heard, "Ding ... thud."

I ran down the steps, and Buddy was sitting there, weaving back and forth. He'd hit the dog door so hard that he bent it several inches and pulled the screws most of the way out of the wall. I was more concerned about Buddy, though. I checked his head, and he wasn't bleeding. Just had a lump.

I guess he hit the door with his least vulnerable spot.

Buddy went nuts when we had visitors. He even barked at us when we leave or return to the house, or when we walked Scottie to the mailbox.

But he gave Lady a buddy and a playmate. She'd come to me with dog slobber all over her after a wrestling bout. Best of all, she acted as Buddy's mother, so she became more responsible. She even scolded him when he got too rambunctious.

But she still stole his chewies. To her, he'd always be the sidekick, never the dog star.

P.S.: Buddy died on Oct. 28, 2011, one of the worst days of my life.

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