The Day Buddy Came
One day five years ago this month—June 2021—my life changed forever.
Bud’s did, too.
That was the hot, humid summer day Buddy, who at only one and a half years had had a total of three names so far as he’d been shuffled around one foster home after another--showed up on the deck of my ancient little stucco house in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, where the Dakota plains meet the Minnesota hills, in the company of two weary and wary women from Minnesota Aussie Rescue.
Both Judy and Susan looked a little chagrined, even guilty, as if they didn’t believe they should really leave this unpredictable, half-wild, surly, life-changing dog to this mild-mannered, middle-aged bachelor writer who lived a quiet life of artistic solitude in which he wrote his shoot-‘em-up western books.
After all, when I’d first approached Aussie Rescue, I’d said I wanted an older dog, easy to care for. My older Aussie, Miss Sydney, had died a couple of months previously and I missed her dearly. I was in my fifties and, having raised a brood of Aussie-collie crosses in the past, when I’d been married, I knew how much work younger dogs could be. I wasn’t sure I was up to that level of industry, not to mention stress.
If not me for Bud, though, who?
On paper, I was perfect.
I was divorced, lived alone, and had no children. The no children part was great because Buddy, during his time as “Hershey,” had bit a kid. Having been homeless and then in too many homes, his nerves were so fried he couldn’t handle the stimulation of having too many people around. In fact, most people he downright didn’t care for. He was afraid of them, most likely due to harassment by children and downright abuse. His fear manifested in aggression—barking, snarling, lunging, biting.
What also made me a good pairing for Bud was that since I worked at home, he would rarely be alone. He’d have lots of attention and care, and there would be plenty of time for us to get to know each other. Originally a country dog, Buddy should ideally be in the country, or at least in a small town. (He’d once been kept in a condominium in Minneapolis, spending most of the day in a crate, I suspect.) I lived in a small town with a population right around thirteen thousand, and I had as yet hazy plans to move back into the country, which I since have done. Like Bud, I’d been a country mouse for most of my life before moving to Fergus Falls, and though Fergus is a fairly sedate little town, I felt I needed more quiet and privacy, more nature around me, more room to move around.
Even though I lived in town back then, I spent a lot of time in the country, walking, hiking, biking, and paddling my kayak. A near-perfect situation for a dog like Bud, who, after his cluttered and confined previous conditions, needed to spread his wings, as well. Like me, he needed to be able to turn his wolf loose.
Would the situation be perfect for me, too, though?
I have to admit, I was anxious. I’d wanted an older dog for a reason. Now I’d agreed to take on a one-and-a-half-year-old problem. I was feeling a little like Buddy was being pushed on me by Judy and Susan, though I wasn’t offended. They were thinking first and foremost about Bud. Being a die-hard animal lover myself, I probably would have done the same in their situation. They saw this hermit writer as a great match for Bud after a long series of not-so-great to downright horrific matches.
I saw it that way, too.
That’s why when I opened my door that hot, humid June day, there he was as per our earlier agreement that, after having met him previously at his current foster home near Minneapolis, I’d take him.
This despite that during my earlier visit to his foster home, where I’d gone to initially meet him, he’d split my lip. He’d given me a gash the likes of which I hadn’t had since locker room brawls when I was in high school. The stubborn bleeding had made it tough to eat breakfast with his fosters, Judy and Bill. Not one to cower from a challenge--though I was deep-down wanting to turn tail and run screaming for home!--I still agreed to take him. I didn’t know if the split lip had been the result of play or aggression. I didn’t know him well enough yet though I’ve since learned that he likes to play rough, the rougher the better (and still does), and he’d merely been playing that day.
Despite my reservations, I was convinced we’d each sensed some sort of dog/human kinship in each other. Besides, he was beautiful—a tri-color black, white, and a fawn pure-breed Australian shepherd with big, sad dark eyes and the sullen, timid disposition of the misfit.
I saw myself as a misfit, too. I have all my life. I wasn’t going to turn my back on this misfit dog because of one fat lip. I’d dipped my toes in the water—albeit that of a rather unruly river with a perilous undertow—and I was ready to swim.
After all—if not me, who?
I was his best chance for a good life with someone who loved him.
Five years later, I realize he was the same for me.