A Dog’s Life

I’ve always been of the school that thinks “a dog is a dog is a dog”. But I’ve come to find that some are special. Hell, I guess to tell the truth they’re all pretty special…to someone.

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.

Buddy, Buddy, Buddy

Buddy is definitely not a thing of beauty or a role model for his breed. His value can only be measured by the pleasure he brings to all who care to rub his stomach or feed him a treat

Buddy came to be a part of our life at the farm in fits and starts.  He first was a day visitor to the farm accompanying his owner, one of many transitory workers who worked for us briefly and moved on.  When Buddy’s owner was no longer needed, or was fired, he gathered his belongings and left, but left Buddy behind.  You can see from the picture, Buddy is a purebred mongrel with hints of Boxer, and he obviously is the victim of a botched home made ear job.  The ragged ears contributes to the somewhat ferocious look which belies the demeanor of an orphan looking for love where ever he can find it.

In the early days, the occasional visitor would offer to provide Buddy a home, and we always agreed, thinking that one less animal would lighten our load.  Of course, it never lasted.  Buddy might leave with a putative new owner watching us with sad eyes as he draped his paws over the tail gate of the truck in which he was being taken away.  It never lasted long.  In thirty minutes, a couple hours, or a day or two, he always returned with a self-satisfied look on his face seeming to say, “you can’t get rid of me that easily”.

As Buddy became a part of the farm, he became it’s protector just as the farm provided for and protected Buddy.  Buddy loved to watch the continuing stream of construction workers and the buzz of activity that swirled around him.  We had something of a to do when the workers began to complain that someone was stealing  lunches out of their trucks.  The mystery was unraveled when we found Buddy lurking around a pile of construction materials with a half-eaten home made burrito in his mouth.  I chastised Buddy, but not too much.  I learned that Buddy would eat anything.  The trabajadores learned to roll up the windows in their truck to safeguard their lunch, and Buddy learned to look for his lunch in other places.

I’ve never really been much of a dog person having only had one dog of my own in my long ago youth, but my growing affection and esteem for Buddy was solidified when Buddy became my fishing companion whenever I cast a line or baited a hook.  I don’t know whether he thought I might toss him a fish I didn’t want, or if he just liked my company……more likely the former, now that I think about it.  Once, I was fishing for catfish at Brennigar’s Lake near the show barn when, needing to rebait a treble hook, I found my jar of stink bait had gone missing.  I found Buddy laying in the shade of my truck licking the last of the stink bait out of the glass container.  I think he even belched softly as I grabbed for the jar, hoping in vain that some would be left.  The belch was only a precursor for a week to come of horribly noxious odors emanating from Buddy’s nether regions.  To put it bluntly, Buddy farted stink bait for a week.

I ultimately decided that Buddy needed a running partner and got the first pick of a litter of a well bred Lab, and Daisy came in to our lives.  Daisy and Buddy became fast friends and partners in mischief.  They often would return from an evening of carousing with odors of skunk clinging to their coats or a piece of the remains of an unlucky squirrel at the corner of their mouth.  As the years went by, Buddy learned he couldn’t keep up with Daisy as they struck out in pursuit of  real or imagined prey.  Buddy, like me, became a little lame, but his desires for the chase ran hot and true.  He began to eschew the chase for a ride in the back of the mule with Javier as he made his rounds feeding the horses and mucking stalls.  Buddy got a little fat as he progressed to the end of his middle years and learned there was as much pleasure to be had from begging a dog treat as from the thrill of the chase.  But however he did it, Buddy always ate well.

So you can understand our distress when we received a call from our horse trainer yesterday telling us the bad news that Buddy had disappeared.  Brian and Javier had searched the farm and beyond to no avail.  S. and I went into a deep funk.  Buddy had been a part of the creation of our farm.  He had made us smile, and given us years of joy.  And now, for reasons we couldn’t fathom, he was gone.  We played out various theories that would account for his disappearance.  We became alarmed when S. thought of the possibility of Buddy having gotten into a fight with the pack of dogs we’d seen roaming the area the past week.  We called Brian and asked him to look some more.  I even thought of driving to the farm and joining in the effort myself.  We finally concluded that Buddy’s fate had been determined by some immutable law of nature, and that we would have to be satisfied with our memories.

To make things worse, we had been subject to a series of concerted skunk attacks over the last week, and as we scrambled to mount our defenses, we had thought of bringing Buddy up to the main house as an additional line of defense.   Since we were going back to Dallas, we’d decided to set out a series of skunk traps around the house and let fate take it’s course.  It had not been a good week at all.

This morning, as I was sinking in to a depression brought about by Buddy’s loss and the ignominy of having to prep for my colonoscopy tomorrow, Brian called again.  Hallelujah!  Buddy had been found, and, moreover,  he was safe.  No pack of wild dogs after all.  “Where did you find him” we asked.  “In a trap”, he said.  Confused, I thought of the hog traps we had out, but had not been baiting.  “Why would he go in a hog trap”, I thought.  “No, Bryan said, “he was in one of the skunk traps at your house.  Evidently he smelled the sardines you were using for bait, went in to help himself, and the trap did it’s job”.

Buddy is now back in our life and at the barn mooching food from whoever will pay attention to him.  I suspect he’s sworn off sardines for life.