Buddy came to Lyday Farms as the property of an itinerant worker as we were just beginning to build the place. The worker didn’t last long, but Buddy may outlast us all. As you can see from the portrait above, Buddy is not exactly a work of art, and if he was of a breed, he would not be an outstanding representative. Actually, all one can say about Buddy’s appearance is that he looks like a mongrel, which he is, and that he has about the ugliest ears ever seen on any dog of any breeding.
Evidently his putative owner thought he was more of a Boxer than anything else and felt that clipped ears were de rigueur and got after them with his mama’s pinking shears. I won’t even try to describe the tail bob. It would bring tears to your eyes. When he wags his tail in happiness or anticipation (which he does several hundred times a day), he wags his whole rear end in a futile effort to move the tiny stump of a tail he is left with. He doesn’t care.
As Andy Rooney said one night on 60 Minutes in his ending monologue, “the average dog is a nicer person than the average person”. Buddy fits that description. In dog years, Buddy, like me, is in the late fall/early winter of his seasons on earth. Neither his advancing years, his somewhat overweight body, nor his stiff and aching legs deter him from his dogly pursuits. He will chase the incautious rabbit, but only for a short while. He will drag up the occasional bone of a newly dead critter but will forget to bury it for later. He will growl ferociously at a stranger, but will wind up licking his hand in the first thirty seconds. In short, you might say his spirit is strong, but his flesh is weak. I identify.
Early on, we weren’t sure Buddy was a fit for the farm, and we tried to give him away on at least two occasions. The first time he actually left the farm in the pick-up of a local workman who thought he would enjoy Buddy’s company. Buddy was back in his old spot in the horse barn by sundown. Buddy suspected something amiss in the second instance and would not load into the truck. He didn’t bark. He didn’t growl. He didn’t run away. He just would not get in the truck. He knew something was up. In any case, he became a fixture on the property, and would not leave it.
He loved to hang around the work crews when we were building our house. Actually, I don’t think it was the men in the crews that he liked so much but the tacos and burritos that they invariably left in their trucks until lunch. The situation finally came to a head when I was approached by the general contractor complaining that his men were complaining that their lunches going missing from their trucks. They rightly blamed Buddy. Buddy has had a fondness for burritos ever since. Bean and cheese is his favorite.
My favorite Buddy story, however, has to do with his companionship on my periodic fishing forays around the farm. He would sit patiently and watch my efforts to extract a fish from the local waters, but if the fish ever flopped off my hook onto the shore, he was history. I think he preferred catfish, or at least he was attracted to the same aromas. Once, when I was otherwise occupied, Buddy spied (or smelled) an open jar of catfish stink bait, and yes, he ate it…..every last whiff. His breath could kill all the flies and gnats within a couple of meters, but the real effect wasn’t noticed until the next morning when he began to pass large masses of the horribly noxious digestive fumes. In my personal judgement, I believe that they were the worst smells ever to emanate from an animal, alive or dead. It’s a little known fact that when a dog passes gas, there is no sound and therefore, no warning. One minute you’re appreciating the aroma of a freshly mown hay field, and the next there’s Buddy with a curious grin just having cut the dog version of a giant cheese. One could only gasp and vacate the area promptly. Even the horses cut a wide swath around Buddy for at least two weeks. Buddy didn’t care.
Buddy has become the elder statesman of the farm. He mentors, coaches, and when necessary, disciplines all the other dogs that call Lyday Farms home. He stays pretty close to home base now, but greets us with his particular brand of slobbering enthusiasm whenever we show up. A few good licks are always in order. When we least expect it, he will show up at the kitchen door for his just reward from the bag of dog treats we keep under the counter. He will even indulge me by sitting at my command for a few seconds before he takes the treats to a private place to enjoy at his leisure.
I’ve never really had dogs as some people have dogs. I’ve been around them, but without any particular attachment. And still, I’ve not made the kind of commitment to Buddy that he’s made to me. I’m almost there.
Lord Byron said in referring to a recently deceased companion of many years, “Near this spot are deposited the remains of one who possessed beauty without vanity, courage without ferocity, strength without insolence, and all the virtues of man without his vices” He could only have been referring to his dog.
He could have been talking about Buddy.
NB. Buddy died a little more than a year after this was written. We have planted a tree in his memory.