Each month, for more than a year now, I am overwhelmed by the response I receive on my column from listeners and readers alike. Most are dog owners, some are cat people only, others are without pets entirely. One owns a goat, another a turtle. One reader hates dogs altogether and sticks with her exotic birds instead. But all share a commonality; a love for animals. I am thanked for not only sharing my stories and adventures surrounding Buddy but also connecting on a level and sense of understanding that reaches far beyond just “the dog”.
Today, in this column, I wish to return the thanks. Thanks not just for enjoying the column itself, but also for taking the time to reach out to me via Facebook, email, cards, letters, text, phone and in person. Through conversation and written communication with you, I have learned something about myself. For many years I wondered if anyone could love their pet as much as I love mine. I even doubted at times that such individuals existed. Although I’ve met many “dog lovers”, I still wondered if anyone understood and shared the same depth of connection I have with mine. I now know the answer. How wrong I was to think there may not be others who share the same bond. I guess it’s easy to assume when you feel something too profound for words, it can become unspeakable.
Through my column I have attempted however to give my heart a voice and put to words the meaning behind the relationship with my canine companion.
I have observed first-hand lately that I am not alone in my grief of the fact that someday I will not come home to Buddy. So many of you have shared your pet companion stories with me, stories that are so worthy of the space on these pages. I can only hope you’ll allow me to feature them in in my book someday.
From seventeen year-old “Scrappy” (who shared the same ailments as Buddy) and loved his family until his final breath, to the listener who called me in despair during my morning show recently. We have an understanding. From Ralph and his beloved chocolate lab McKinley to Janet and her 20 year old cat Alfred who just tip-toed across the rainbow bridge, we can all nod our heads.
It seems in life when you least expect you’re your heart can take a direct hit. It happened to me recently at a Mountaineers Game. Local photographer Roger Crowley approached me along with a few staff members asking about “the DJ with the dog”. He looked familiar, so I spoke up. Several years ago Roger took a photo of Buddy and I and had it transferred onto canvas. He had been saving the painting all this time in hopes of someday finding me. Sometimes, at seems anyway, there are moments that stop all others. For me, this was one of them. Another might be the 2nd grader at Barre Town School who quickly made a stick-figure “get well” card for Buddy while I was reading one of my columns to the class.
I am often asked how Buddy is, even by those I have not met. My response is the usual: “He’s had better days”, and I will leave it at that with hopes of changing the subject. The truth is, Buddy is tired, and my time with him this summer is precious. Furthermore, I am privately struggling with the reality that our time together is limited. I remind myself that all of our time is limited, and should be made the best of each day.
But meanwhile, these are the last things Buddy is thinking of. Between long naps, Buddy strolls slowly passed the chickens and with watchful eye checks the perimeter of the yard ensuring the safety of all in the event of intruders. He examines his favorite “dirt nest” under the rhododendron and leaves his mark where he wishes. His concerns these days most likely surround his pride, or lack thereof since his first ever summer haircut. But I coax him to the river for a cool drink instead, and then a bath with his favorite tea tree shampoo. Soon he begins his journey back to the house, soaking wet. Stopped, he stands proudly dripping over his stuffing-free toy skunk.
I think Buddy actually likes his newly shaved body despite the exposure of his imperfections from sixteen years. Besides, now there’s no reason to shake.