I own a 9 year old Golden Retriever named “Buddy.” (Of course, it is questionable about who owns whom.) I think it is time to enlighten non-dog owners – and even dog owners – about the intelligence of our canine friends. (Since I am not a man – I get upset when I hear about “man’s best friend”, because if it were not for Buddy, I probably would not be here today writing this piece.)
Buddy is not my first dog, nor is he the second. Our first dog – a black lab – named “Shalom” – was his own free spirit. He refused to be trained, and did everything he could do to thwart the training he did learn. A funny episode happened that I will relate to you even though it has nothing to do with the origin of this article.
We used to live in Lake Havasu City. I always referred to city as the “asshole city of the world” because of all the asses that lived there – both two footed and four footed. Never-the-less, one summer my husband, our youngest daughter and I took a trip to Canada. My husband’s secretary offered to look after Shalom so that we did not have to put him in a kennel. She was warned that he did not follow directions – unless he wanted to – and leaving a door open became a chase throughout the streets of Lake Havasu. The secretary assured us that she knew how to handle dogs and Shalom would be well trained when we arrived home. Ha! The story, as told to us by many residents of the city follows:
Driving by the Lutheran Church they found Liz on her knees shouting, “Shalom! Shalom!” (People did not know that she was dog sitting.) They thought she was “repenting” for her sins. Needless to say, Shalom was behind the church and was not ready to come home, even with the raw hamburger she was trying to use as “bait.”
After Shalom passed away and the age of 18, we adopted a Golden Retriever – Pal – from the Humane Society. A funny story about Pal bears telling: I was the Vocational Director for San Diego Job Corps in Imperial Beach. We periodically invited the Police Department to the center to do a drug search if we suspected there were drugs on campus. The police came in with their dogs and did a demonstration and then checked out the dorms.
My husband, Bob, had just picked Pal up from the society, and brought him to visit me at Job Corps. We had put our name in for him 16 days before we got him, so I was anxious to see him. He drove into the parking lot, was checked by security – as all visitors are checked – and then parked, in full view, of students on campus. In the 7 years I worked at the center, I never saw so many people run so fast to get to their dorms and, I presume, destroy their drugs.
Pal was such a good dog. He endeared himself to everyone that met him, including many of the Job Corps students. When I was transferred to Bangor, Maine, one of the teachers at the center did not want him to be placed in the “hold” of the airplane, and she DROVE him to Bangor, a distance of 3800 miles, because she cared about him. I often wondered if she was my friend – or Pal’s – because she cared so deeply about us. Pal loved Maine; we lived on the Penobscot River and he would swim over to the other side of the river just for the pure joy of swimming. I was later transferred to Treasure Island in San Francisco, and he enjoyed that too. We moved back to San Diego and it was if he had never left. Unfortunately, he was killed in a malpractice case against two veterinarians in Ocean Beach, but that is another story. He was 14.
Bob said that he did not want to ever have another dog. Losing both Shalom and Pal was such a traumatic experience he did not want to ever have to go through it again. That resolve lasted 7 days. Pal died the last week of May, and on June 3rd we adopted Buddy (Cody Bear) from the Golden Retriever Rescue in Temecula. In naming him, Bob wanted something similar to “Pal”; we had a Grandson named “Cody” so agreed upon Buddy. He was 3 when we took him home.
What a deprived life he led before coming to us. He, and his “housemate” Ginger, always lived in a garage. They were the dogs of a couple that were both in the service and were being deployed to Iraq. They had both dogs to breed, but for some reason Buddy was “fixed” before he was turned into the Rescue so if there were litters we know nothing about them. The first time he was placed in our car he didn’t know what to do. He had never been in a car before, and it took a lot of patience to work with him to feel comfortable when he was invited to go with us.
Bob took Buddy for training with a great dog trainer – Lee Wells – in Coronado. Unlike the “Dog Whisperer”, she was compassionate in her teachings. She feels that dogs have feelings too and in working with them they become part of the family. She does not want her dogs to have a “Master”. If treated well they respond well. The three of us went every Saturday for months but Bob was responsible for Buddy’s training. At the end of the first 10 week training, Buddy won the award for the “most improved dog.” (I really think the award should have gone to Bob.)
Bob and Buddy were inseparatable. I always said that we should have named him “Shadow” because where ever Bob was, Buddy was there too. That dog loved that man unconditionally. Once, while walking Buddy, another man – I think he was a transplant from Lake Havasu – allowed his dog to tangle the leash with Buddy’s leash. Bob fell, broke his wrist, and Buddy sat their and loudly wept. The man said to Bob, “are you hurt?” Bob said “yes” and the man continued walking his dog. Bob called me from his cell and I came and picked him – and Buddy – up. I tried to drop Buddy off at home, but he stubbornly refused to get out of the car. I ended up taking both of them to the hospital. Buddy waiting in the car for hours, until Bob came out in a sling.
Buddy would do everything and anything that Bob asked of him. Then Bob got sick – lung cancer – and he could not do all the things he used to do with Buddy. Buddy seemed to understand, but at 3:30 EVERY DAY he would go to Bob as if to say, “are we going for a walk today?” Bob took him EVERYDAY at 3:30pm, rain or shine and although Buddy didn’t wear a watch, he knew what time it was. If Bob had the strength he would take him; otherwise, Buddy just sat at his side offering comfort.
When Bob got so sick that he had to be moved to Hospice, the ambulance drivers came into the house and Buddy would not let them near Bob until Bob said it was ok. When Buddy was distressed, he would go sit in our swimming pool. When people brought over their dogs to play with Buddy he would only tolerate them so long, and then he sought refuge in the pool. Buddy sat in the pool the entire time it took to transfer Bob from his bed to the ambulance. After I came home and dried him, he went to the bedroom and laid down on Bob’s side of the bed, refusing to eat for several days.
Bob never did come home again, and I think that Buddy mourned him as much as I did. I think that he, like me, is still in mourning Although I didn’t sit in the pool with Buddy, he spent every day there. He still, one year later, comes into the bedroom, sniffs Bob’s side of the bed; sniff’s the chest of drawers where Bob’s things are still kept. He seldom, if ever, goes into Bob’s office – just like I try not to go into his office. One night, while sound asleep, Buddy woke me up with the thumping of his tail. He thumped, and thumped and thumped. He was either dreaming of Bob, or Bob was there petting him. I did not want to open my eyes, in fear that I would see nothing – or something. I timed Buddy’s thumping tail – 4 minutes.
I have started to walk Buddy now. Bob started to write out the route he took and I found it while going through some papers. If I deviate, Buddy lets me know I am doing it wrong. He just sits! He refused to move. He weighs over 100 pounds so I can’t move him myself. Sometimes, if I give him a treat he will follow me – always on-leash. But you can see him saying, “this is not how Daddy would do it.” Yesterday, while stopping in the middle of Sunset Cliffs and refusing to walk another step, I reached into the pouch that holds the treats and I swear he smiled at me. If that wasn’t a “gotcha” I don’t know what it was. That dog is so smart. When I tell people that he is still in mourning, they look at me with pity in their eyes. Pity because I still miss Bob? No, pity that they believe that I believe that Buddy knows Bob is no longer there. Buddy is my only link to Bob. I live my life now through Buddy. May sound bizarre, but it is true. He gives me a purpose to keep on, in spite of having 9 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren. Now the name is very appropriate. He is, indeed, my Buddy.