Five Years With a Dog
Looking back as it's just over five years to the day since we brought you home...
Buddy, we first saw you online on the Oregon Humane Society's website, your smiling face wearing a bandana and the note that you were good with kids and cats. We were looking for a dog and you'd just arrived that Sunday in November. We met you on a Monday evening, took you home on a Tuesday.
By the end of the week, we'd discovered that you didn't really deal with dog food much because you loved people food too much, especially tacos. This probably explained why you were 102 pounds and in dire need of a diet. Our first walks around the block were difficult; obviously your previous owners were content to let you lay around the yard.
Over the months we had your fur groomed and began the process of teaching you that kibble and canned food were OK. Since you're especially food-motivated, this wasn't too hard. The walks grew longer as the days grew shorter.
As the weather warmed up, the walks grew longer. Your fur was growing shiny and you didn't get winded quite so easily. We figured that you needed a deck to relax on, so we had a new deck built in the back yard, complete with a ramp so you could walk up and down without any problems.
We couldn't always watch you during the day, so away you went to daycare, where we learned another secret: other people had wanted to adopt you as well. The daycare folks had wanted to turn you into the house mascot, but their loss was our gain. We learned that you could also run and jump and get the ball, so we added a Chuck-It and a host of balls to the arsenal of dog toys.
You developed a trick during this time that we termed the Ton-Buddy (after the Tonberry enemy in the Final Fantasy games). When you did this, you'd sit away from us, inch forward slightly, wait a moment, then inch forward a bit more. Once you were within range, you'd smooch your vicitm unexpectedly.
The local school became your favorite destination as a small community of dog owners sprang up in the afternoons to walk and socialize their dogs. We knew their dogs' names but very few of their own, but everybody knew you, Buddy. While there were other dogs and you'd play with them, your primary love was getting petted by strangers. You soon devloped a new signature move, sitting on their feet.
Sometime during this year you got into a pill that you weren't supposed to, and we spent a very frightening hour on the phone with the ASPCA poison control number. Thankfully, it was just going to make you sleepy, but that was a very long hour while we figured it out.
When one of our older cats finally had to go over the Rainbow Bridge, you were there to help console us again. I think it was around this time that we decided that you were Life Coach Buddy, because you'd help with this and with helping the neighbor child learn how to ride a bike.
Our second elderly cat had to leave us, and again, you were there. You and Archie were still great friends, though, and you followed him around the house in an attempt to get him to play with you. He was simultaneously thrilled and disgusted when you licked him on the head, but he's never run away.
And then in the summer we had an idea. Hey, let's take a trip to the beach, we said. Let's take the dog, we said. He'll love it! So we booked a hotel that was pet-friendly and set off for the coast.
Well, you loved the beach and you loved the car ride, but you really did not love the stairs. After a couple of aborted attempts to carry you down the stairs to our hotel room, we got back in the car and I drove back to Portland, where you spent the weekend at doggie daycare (the benefits of being near the coast).
Then for Thanksgiving, a trip to the in-laws unexpectly involved another set of stairs, this time more difficult because of the bend in the middle. I couldn't really backtrack for three hours of driving this time, so together we learned that stairs weren't the worst thing in the world. The fact that there were treats at the end probably helped.
We added a new cat in the spring. The new cat doesn't really like you all that much, but because you're a smart dog, you keep well away. Your muzzle's a bit greyer than it used to be, but you're moving pretty well. Other than your horrible breath, you're in reamarkably good health.
Then one day I come home and you're limping quite heavily, favoring your back right foot; it's as if you've aged ten years in a single day and it takes forever to walk around the block. One trip to the vet blends into another, and another, and another as we try and figure out what's going on. They operate on your foot and clean your teeth, after you recover it's the first time in a long time you can lick us without us recoiling.
With the work on your foot, you get a bandage and a wrap, and I grow to love the "schwup schwup schwup" sound you make as we walk with your bootie on, through the leaves and the puddles. Overall, your mood seems about the same. But your foot is still swollen, long after it should have returned to normal. The vets are confused (and we have three separate ones who see you, none of them can figure out what is going on), and I am quite frankly terrified.
You're my friend, Buddy. We will always do what's best for you because we love you, but we want more time.