Buster was the perfect dog. He wasn't some exotic pedigree or AKC-worthy purebred. He didn't know any tricks or excel at any doggie duties. He wasn't even a particularly good watch-dog. What he was, however, was gentle, dignified, loving, patient and so eager to please. He endured the juvenile machismo of our other dog, Rufus, yet found his position in our little pack without problem. He never disobeyed when he could figure out what we wanted him to do. He learned "sit" and had almost figured out "lie down." When it was time for a walk, he waited for his leash and then patiently sat at the edge of the entryway with Rufus for us to say "Okay, let's go." The night before he died, we were going to leave him to rest while we took Rufus for a walk, but little Buster clambered shakily off of the futon and wobbled over to us, as if to say "Hey, I'm still part of this family. I'm supposed to go with you." We took him down the block just a bit until he flopped down in a yard. Then we walked him slowly home.
He was a part of our family from the moment we let him into the backyard to meet Rufus. Rufus is happy all the day long, so rather than treat this new dog like an intruder, he sprang about playfully, trying to determine the parameters of our new dynamic. Buster was at first quite all right with letting Rufus be "top dog." But Rufus, having so little doggie-sense, wouldn't let it go. So Buster, over the course of the next few days, put the little brat in line and enjoyed a little more respect, (off and on.)
One thing Buster liked was to wade around in our little plastic kiddie pool. Rufus uses it as a glorified water dish, but Buster would climb right in and slosh around. After a particularly hard rain, I poured the water out into the yard so I could refill it with clean water. Oh boy. The mud puddle was epic and both dogs ran around in it like lunatics, and then chased each other through the house, leaving a trail of mud across the livingroom, onto the futon/couch, and all over both bathroom floors. It was impossible to be upset about it: they were having so much fun.
When we took Buster to get neutered, the vet noted he had an upper resperatory infection and gave us some medicines to give him. Three different pills, twice a day. Well, Buster was one of those dogs that could eat peanut butter from around a pill and spit it back out. We tried just shoving the pills into the back of his mouth but his jaws were so strong. And he had no appetite so it was hard getting him to eat. The first couple of days, we just pulverized the pills and slipped the powder into Yokult (Google it) and squirted it into his mouth. Once his appetite kicked inand did it everhe gulped all three pills down inside meatballs made of canned dog food. When the wet dog food ran out, peanut butter and then hot dogs did the trick. (And then we bought more wet food!)
He never finished off his prescription. Never even finished off that last can of dog food. Never even got his stitches taken out. He blew into our lives and we were making plans for years and years of belonging to each other, but he was sicker than we realized.
Yesterday morning I noticed the muscles in his head and neck twitching continuously. We had no idea what it was and so later that day we asked Doc. She said it sounded like distemper. We weren't sure if that was a death sentence or not, so I planned to go online and find out what I could about it. As proof of an indifferent universe, the power supply to our connector box was fried and we could not find a replacement anywhere. Our provider promised to send one within a couple of days. So we were left to call a friend and ask him to tell us what he could find. Still, there was nothing we could do but keep him as comfortable as possible until morning, when we could take him to see Doc.
It got worse last night, (yet he still wanted his walk) and by this morning, he was having seizures that left him frothing at the mouth. We both knew this was probably the end, but kept trying to hold on to whatever sliver of hope there could be. When we got to the shelter, Buster was so scared he tried to run away. I don't know if he thought we were going to abandon him there or if it was the disease making him panic. We wanted to be with him to the very end, but because of city ordinances, we had to leave him with the vet and vet tech. We walked out and just stood there, holding each other and crying in the parking lot. He was our perfect dog. He was the missing piece that we didn't know was missing until he clicked into place and made our lives so much happier.
Just a handful of days ago, as we were lounging around on the futon with our two sleepy dogs, Tim said "It's stupid, I know, but right now I'm so happy, it kind of hurts. I'm not used to it."
Preparing for the worst, we spent that last evening giving him every ounce of love we could. He could hardly sleep through his tremors so I gave him a midnight buffet of hot dogs, yogurt, wet dog food and water. He still had his appetite and still loved meatballs. He seemed unable to walk so I carried him into the bedroom to sleep with Tim one last time.
On the way to the vet, he sat up in the back seat, in spite of his seizures, and looked out the window at the world he was leaving. Trees in bloom, blue skies with thick white clouds, cars, people, buildings, all in colors that seemed so bright, painted especially pretty just for him. He seemed to savor his time here and was filling his eyes with a last look at his world. He didn't know what was happening, I know. I'm aware of anthropomorphising our pets, but I want to believe he was still full of doggy curiosity and wonder, up to the end. I just wish he hadn't been afraid, those final minutes. I wish we could have stayed with him. But in the end, death is death and he's not scared or suffering anymore.
We hardly had time to make memories, but my favorite one, the one that will stay with me the strongest, was one afternoon when I came home from a day out with Tim. I flopped down on the futon and Buster came in the room, looking perky. I opened my arms wide and said "Buster!" in a cheerful voice. He suddenly sprang onto my chest, laying his forelegs around my neck and resting his head against mine. A perfect cuddle, a wonderful surprise. I honestly didn't expect that reaction. It made me laugh and call Tim in from the other room to see. He lay on me like that for a while, just "hugging" me. I would give the world for that moment one more time.
I kept his collar and tags. His id tag is on my keyring for now. I think I'd like a more fitting tribute to him, but I'll have to figure that out later. Maybe a photo with his tag attached to the frame. Simple and classy, like my Buster.
There was a meteor shower last night. I think I saw a meteor but it went by so quickly I'm not sure it wasn't just a trick of the light. Buster was like that: a brief, bright, beautiful light that was gone before we could blink. He was the perfect dog for us and there is a huge hole where his piece of the puzzle used to fit. But we got a glimpse of the whole picture, and it was wonderful.