A Buddy To The End

Jordan Arel, 10/16/2011

            Buddy was the best dog we ever had. He was the best dog anybody ever had. We were the luckiest family in the world to come by him and give him a home. He was found trotting happily alongside a rural dirt road and was brought in to the human society.

            When we discovered him, he was traumatized by the dingy atmosphere and the day-in-day-out barking and whining that the humane society entailed. His golden silky ears were greasy and his soft red fur was dirt-soaked and matted. A golden retriever mix, his eyes were large and nervous, and he couldn’t stop doing his trademark twitch—a snarl on one side of his mouth. It wasn’t a snarl though—we knew better. He was smiling at us. A dog lover to the core, my sister, Abby, was immediately taken by the sweet, affectionate mutt, and I must confess an outpouring of loving endearment on my part as well. Even my mom, who is usually quite reserved when it comes to adopting new animals, found herself connecting strongly with our new-found friend. This is how Buddy came to be part of the family.

            Over the next three years, Buddy became everybody’s best friend. And I mean everybody. Whoever he met, there would always be an outflowing of love, joy, and laughter. The way he smiled with excitement and beat his tail against the wall whenever you came into the house would light up anybody’s day. He liked being with people and being petted more than anything else. Whenever you stopped petting him, he would artfully wedge his snout under your hand and tip his head back so it would slide down his neck. We took him for walks regularly, never on a leash, unless we were near traffic. Buddy wouldn’t dream of running away. His family was more dear to him than life itself. He loved to amble along beside us, his butt bouncing cheerfully from side to side, tail wagging.

            As I stand in the waiting room, the veterinary secretary speaks softly with my mom, confirming Buddy’s appointment. I pat Buddy gently on the head, my other arm limp at my side. My sister is there as well. She stares blankly at the floor, as though thinking about something very far off.

            “The doctor is ready for you now.” We make our way to a small, plain room on the right side of the building, different from where Buddy has had his usual appointments. The doctor closes the door quietly behind us, setting the final scene of our time together. I see my mom’s eyes starting to get moist.

            “Buddy was such a good dog…” The doctor says comfortingly, as he lifts Buddy up and sets him on the cold metal table. There is a compassionate, heartfelt sadness in his voice.  He is right.

            Two months earlier, my sister had noticed a lump on buddy’s right hind leg. We brought him to the vet to have it checked. The doctor ran some tests to determine whether or not it was malignant. Three weeks later, Buddy went in for surgery to have his leg amputated. The mass had grown from the size of a bouncy ball to the size of an egg by the time they cut off his leg.

            Two days after surgery, we were so glad to have Buddy back. He had to take it easy until the wound healed some, but otherwise he would be perfectly fine. Buddy was overjoyed when we arrived to pick him up. He was hopping along like an oversized baby bunny-rabbit just finding its bounce, and was, for the most part, back to normal in just a few days. Buddy made quite a sight, with all the skin around his wound shaved, and with the hairless lump of flesh where his leg should have been—but he was happy as ever.

            It didn’t take long for us to start noticing a new mass developing. To our horror, there was another lump growing underneath the skin where his leg had been amputated. The vet could do nothing to stop the cancer now. Any more surgery would mean cutting into his internal organs. Buddy had only about one more month, according to the doctor.

            We loved him and petted him and gave him everything we could over the next month. His body grew weaker and more tired. Buddy had less and less energy, the cancer acting as a leech—slowly, steadily, draining the life from his crippled body. By the end of the month, the mass had grown to the size of a small pancake, and was hard as a rock.

            The time had come to say goodbye. Buddy was lying on the table, and looking a little nervous. He hated being left at the vet’s last time, and was worried we might leave him there again. The doctor gave us some time alone, while he prepared Buddy’s shot.

            “We’re gonna miss you Buddy.” My mom said, clearly tearing up now. She walked over to the table and gently stroked Buddy’s velvet ears. Abby gave him a similar treatment from the other side.

            “Bye Buddy,” She said, her voice shaky. She sniffed and continued, now forcing out the words, “I love you.”

            “Bye Buddy,” I whispered. I rubbed his head and down his neck. My eyes welled up and two tears streamed down my face. My mouth felt numb and was trembling, and I could not say any more. Each of us was crying now. Buddy was so happy that we were all giving him so much attention.

            The doctor came back in, now carrying a syringe with a clear liquid inside. He walked over to Buddy and dabbed some rubbing alcohol on the side of his neck, after shaving a small patch of fur.

            “Have you all said your goodbyes?” He asked. Abby nodded silently. I nodded. “Alright, it’ll just be a small poke,” he said as he inserted the syringe. Buddy didn’t pull away. He always trusted people and did what he could to please. “That’s it. Good boy. Easy now.” Buddy laid down his chin on the table as the liquid entered into his bloodstream. His eyes grew heavy and closed. The doctor pulled out the syringe. “Buddy was such a good dog…”

            On the car ride home I was bombarded with a flood of memories of Buddy, lying next to me while I did my homework, cuddling up to watch TV, sitting on the dock and listening to the waves crash against the shore—always with this warm bundle of joy next to me, comfortably curled up, and somehow giving me the feeling that everything was O.K. I fought the sobs until I was home in my bed, and cried alone there in the dark of my room. Just three years we had had him. And he was only about five years old. This couldn’t be right. This just wasn’t how life is supposed to be.

            I thought about Buddy for a long time. There had to be something I could do; something had to change. Not just for Buddy—he had lived a good life. Too short, but good. And he died a happy dog. But I had to take something from this; there had to be some sort of change. Buddy had to impact me in a meaningful way. I couldn’t let the most amazing creature I had ever known pass away without somehow affecting me.

            It was then that I realized, I had something to learn from Buddy. The way he lived his life was what I had to learn from. He lived a life of love. He lived a life of gentleness. He lived a life of joy. He lived like there was no tomorrow. I couldn’t let that die. Buddy was gone, but I couldn’t let that die with him. It was his gift to the world. And I promised myself that whatever happened, I would become a person who stood for kindness, stood for love. I would find joy. I would live like there was no tomorrow. I had always wanted to be a good person, but Buddy made me realize, that to live, to truly, really live, there was no other way but to be that person. A life well lived is not only determined by what you do; more importantly, it is determenied by who you are. It was from Buddy that I came to understand what life really means.

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