Farewell to my furry friend

April 16, 2013 

The last time I saw Buster, he was trotting through the woods next to the house, the sun dappling through the pines and dancing across his healthy red coat.

The last time I saw Buster, he was trotting through the woods next to the house, the sun dappling through the pines and dancing across his healthy red coat.

Except that’s not the way it happened.

Last fall, our 15-year old mixed chow walked away from the house to die. The last time I saw him he was standing in the garage barking. His hearing was bad, his eyes were glazed, and his expression was tired.

When I looked again, he was gone.

He was not supposed to go off to his final resting place alone; he was supposed to die with his people by his side. We wanted to make his last days comfortable, to let him know he was loved and cared for.

Dogs follow their instincts, though, and Buster did what came naturally. He had been an outside dog for most of his life, but for the past few years he went in and out at will. He was as comfortable sleeping on an old blanket inside as he was stretched outside on the grass.

I could say he had the run of the house, but he was too dignified for that. He was polite and didn’t try to grab food off the counter, but his gentle eyes said everything we needed to know, and he always got his share.

He leapt upon Lindsay’s bed some nights, making her laugh, and although Megan commanded him to stay out of her room, as if he were a pesky brother, she hugged and petted him often, telling him she loved him.

If he wandered into the bathroom and realized it was “occupied,” he immediately turned and left, looking embarrassed.

Until the end, that is, when he didn’t want to be alone — then he’d walk right in and stay. He had a special bond with my mother, Joanne, and followed her from room to room like a child.

He didn’t know or care that she had her own dogs; he didn’t need to know that her kindness encompassed all creatures, especially dogs — he just knew what it was to feel special.

We’d nursed him back to health after he fought one of our other dogs, a younger, bigger male. Buster liked Wilbur when he was a puppy, but after Wilbur grew up it was war — at least on Buster’s part.

To his credit, Wilbur didn’t want to fight and ignored Buster’s “challenges,” but one day he’d had enough.

Buster, already an old man, ended up in the pet hospital, beaten and bloody, and I was sure he’d learned his lesson, but I was wrong. When I picked him up from the hospital, he had the nerve to growl at his own reflection in the glass.

Wilbur was upset about the fight and practically exiled himself, crawling up under a building in the backyard and refusing to come out for days. We had to shove food and water in to him like he was in jail.

A night or two after Buster left, I was half asleep when an image came to my mind. It was Buster, his back to me, trotting away through the pines in the sunshine, his coat healthy and shiny. It really was the last time I saw him.

Karan Moses Robinson is a freelance writer from Clover.

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