When a story from the past starts to form in my head, I often turn to the boxes of photographs we’ve accumulated through the years. Those boxes hold prints from long discarded cameras – the kind that used real film that needed to be developed. In this digital age, I hardly ever have prints developed anymore, and I will one day lament that. All I have now are neat little zippered pockets with dozens of camera cards lined up in a row. When I want to look for a specific photo, I insert the card into its proper slot in the laptop and search through thousands of pictures to find the right one. I’m sure there’s a more organized way to do things, but I don’t have time to figure it out right now.
I was going through boxes of prints this weekend, looking for a specific subject, and instead came across some photos of Bud. I sat in the middle of the bed and flipped through them, then did my best to capture the prints onto a digital camera card. The story I thought I would write today I’ll do another time. Instead, here’s the story of my trash can dog.
I’d wanted a Golden Retriever forever. Ted wasn’t a fan of big dogs (he’s had doxies all his life), but I wanted a big dog, and I wanted that big dog to be a Golden. With Ted’s approval (boy, did THAT take some doing), I applied to a Golden Retriever Rescue in Atlanta, and after going through a screening process worthy of a baby adoption, we were approved. The organization was very thorough and careful about placing the right Golden with the right home, so we knew it might be weeks – or months – before we finally received our rescue Golden. So we waited.
There’s a block house across the street from us at the lake that’s a rental, and the people who lived there had a Labrador mix named Bud. I loved him. He was an outside dog and there was no fence, so he would cross the street to greet me every day when I got home from work, never looking out for cars, just bounding happily over for a pet and an ear scratch. I was out doing yard work one day when Bud spotted me and ran out to cross the road, just as a car came around the curve. The car hit Bud’s hip a glancing blow, hard enough to scare him to death, but not hard enough to really injure him. He learned to watch for cars that day.
Returning from work one afternoon, I rounded that same curve to see Bud fighting for his life against two Rottweilers, who were the bullies of the neighborhood (this was before a leash law came into affect in the rural parts of our county). I knew better than to try and interfere, but no one else was around. I started yelling from the safety of our yard, and luckily the Rotties ran off. When I got to Bud, I found him bleeding from a gaping hole in his chest and discovered to my horror that he was tied to the block house trash can. My mind simply couldn’t take it in. I knocked on their door, but no one answered, and it dawned on me that everything that had been in their yard was gone. I untied Bud, led him into our fenced yard, then went inside and called the landlord of the block house. She told me the renters had left in the middle of the night without paying their rent and had taken everything with them.
“No, not everything” I said. “They left Bud.”
“Who’s Bud?” she asked.
“Their dog,” I said.
“Well, all I can tell you is they’re gone. I’ll call the dog pound, and they’ll come get him.”
“No need,” I said. “Bud’s mine now.”
Ted got home a few minutes later, and he was just as horrified as I was. We loaded Bud into his truck and drove to the vet’s. The hole in his chest was a puncture wound, so it couldn’t be stitched. They cleaned it up, gave him all his shots (we had no records, so we had to assume he’d never seen the inside of a vet’s clinic), started him an antibiotics, ran tests and found he was heartworm positive. He had fleas and ticks. They guessed he was about 18 months old – mostly chocolate lab, but with a little mixed-in pit bull. Several – several – hundred dollars later, we left the vet clinic with our new dog Bud.
We waited two weeks to let his wounds get better before starting his heartworm treatment. A couple of months later, Bud’s injuries were healed, and the heartworm medication had done its magic – we had a healthy dog. A few months after that, we had him neutered.
Sometime during Bud’s heartworm treatment I received a call – the Golden Retriever Rescue had found the perfect dog for the Horton’s. I told them we had rescued a Lab mix instead. They were happy for the Lab mix.
Ted was against allowing Bud in the house. “He’s never lived inside, he’s not housebroken, Shotzie (our miniature dachshund at that time) won’t like it, etc. etc. etc.” But one afternoon, when Ted left to watch football at the Bottom, I invited Bud into the house for the first time. He raced through each room, sniffing everything – furniture, carpet, walls, Shotzie’s toys – ending his explorations in our bedroom by lifting his leg on a tall ficus tree in the corner. I was horrified. I grabbed his collar, said “No” really forcefully, and led him outside, shaking my finger in his face all the way out the back door. Going back inside, I cleaned and disinfected the carpet, and didn’t tell Ted a thing about it. When Ted left the house for a few hours a couple of days later, I called Bud back in. He walked into the den, settled down by the couch, and – hours later – went to the door to ask out. He became an inside dog that day, never having a single accident in the house until years and years later, when old age caught up with him.
Bud captured my hubbie’s heart for good the first time he approached Ted’s chair and Shotzie, sitting in Ted’s lap, almost took Bud’s nose off. Five minutes later Bud had worked his way around the room to the back of Ted’s chair and came up with his nose under Ted’s arm, completely out of sight of Shotzie, who was facing the TV. Ted’s toleration for big dogs took a giant leap that evening.
Bud was always serious about everything. My mom said he looked “solemn” all the time. He did have that expression, but he certainly knew that his life had taken a change for the better when he got to move inside and was given a big, stuffed, fleece-covered dog bed right next to ours in the bedroom. He became my constant companion, and although at first he was left outside while Ted and I worked, it wasn’t long before he moved inside for good. I don’t think he ever missed sleeping under the stars – or out in the rain and cold weather. As soon as we’d start closing the house up for the night, he’d hightail it to the bedroom and curl up into as tight a knot as he could in his bed. I always thought he was thinking “if I make myself really small, they won’t see me and put me outside”.
Unlike Bear, who spreads out against the couch or in the hall at night while we watch TV, Bud was always at my feet – usually on my feet. He was friend to everyone and especially loved when the kids and grandchildren came. I’d never heard of therapy dogs at that time – but he would have been perfect.
When we lost Shotzie – at the age of 15 – Bud was our only dog for a short time. Then Miss Maddie arrived on the scene. They took to each other right away and would often snuggle up to each other in the sun. Maddie still does that today with Bear.
At the age of nine, Bud was diagnosed with diabetes. When I asked what the prognosis was, our small, country town vet said, “Most folks just put them down when that’s the diagnosis. Insulin shots are what’s needed to keep him going, and with those, he could live a pretty normal life for a lot of years.”
“Well, bring out the needles and the insulin, cause Bud’s not going anywhere.” I replied.
For the next three years, I gave Bud two shots a day of insulin – one in the morning and one at night. Ted, who wants no part of needles of any kind, learned to give them too – for the few occasions I wasn’t home. I’ve been known to leave many a party at the lake to go home to give an insulin shot when it was due. Bud couldn’t have cared less about the shots. When I’d go to the frig for the insulin bottle, he’d head over. Then he’d sit with his shoulder up against my knee while I injected him. He never flinched once.
When Bud was eleven we a noticed a growth on one of his back legs, and tests showed it was malignant. With his diabetes, the vet said she didn’t want to put him through a surgery, and neither did I. It was not a particularly aggressive cancer, and he lived a little over a year after the diagnosis – and it was a good year – filled with some play, long walks and lots and lots of love.
When Bud’s time came, he left us as gently as he had lived his life with us. He went to the Rainbow Bridge with his head in my lap and his face in my hands – both of us on the floor in the vet’s office. Just one long sigh, and he was gone.
I know, after losing a pet, many folks wait a long time before bringing another four-legged creature into their homes. Others never want another one, choosing instead to not go through the pain of that loss again. Those decisions are right for those people. But not for me. There’s a special part of my heart that can only be filled with a dog. To not fill it is unfathomable to me.
A week after Bud died, I was looking for another dog. My last big dog. A Golden Retriever. I was about to start the rescue process again when I found Bear on the Internet at a breeder near Atlanta. We rode up the next day to see him and brought him back home with us. He was 13 months old, and you all know the rest of that story.
Bear is a very special dog. He is beautiful and smart and loving and giving. But he came to us from a very good home where his owner doted on him, and – except for a crooked front tooth – he could have been a national champion like his father and mother. Bud had very little in his former life – and he knew he had landed in doggie paradise. He never stopped saying thank you, and one small part of my heart will forever belong to Bud – my trash can dog.
The Rainbow Bridge
Just this side of Heaven is a place called The Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to The Rainbow Bridge.
There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.
There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.
The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life, but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross the Rainbow Bridge together . . .