I remember when we picked him up. After months of looking, we found him at a breeder in Omak. My husband has a knack for tracking down the best pups. Dog-less for a year or more, we finally decided it was time for our daughter to have her own dog. After much negotiations on breed, color and sex, we settled on a brindle Boxer of either gender. We weren’t planning to breed so it was a moot point anyway, although personally I leaned toward female dogs as I found them much more protective and loyal than males. As the days slowly passed, I started to think that this new puppy was going to be very lonely. I mean there he would be, all day in his kennel, no one to play with. If he was cold or scared, he would be alone. One dog? Two dogs? How much work was it really? Besides, they would play with each other. If they were playing with each other, they wouldn’t be bored and eat things. So really, two dogs are less work, if you think about it. I can make a compelling argument for just about anything. So, I made one -or three. I can’t remember. Fortunately, there was one pup left in the litter. So, I was getting a puppy for her birthday too, which was totally fair after 19 hours of labor.
I am not sure how we hid this secret from our daughter, but we did. We wanted it to be a surprise and, until we had a healthy dog in hand, we did not want to get her hopes up. On Friday, we dropped her off to spend the night with her godfather and his family. I felt so mischievous keeping this secret that I just wanted to blurt out. But I held it in. After all, I’m the mama and a grown woman…on the outside. On the inside, I was a little girl, hiding at the top of the stairs waiting for Santa, holding in my giggles with both hands.
After procuring the basic puppy necessities (and several that were definitely not), we headed east of the mountains. We fell in love the minute we saw their googly eyes and fat bellies. One brindle for our daughter and one fawn for me. I had named the fawn Sir Finnegan McMuggles, but we called him Finn. On the long ride home, the brothers (who we affectionately referred to later as the Bruise Brothers) snuggled in the back, alternately lying on top of each other. They were still asleep when we led our daughter to the truck and told her that her birthday present was on the back seat. Of course, that didn’t last because no one can sleep through the gleeful shrieks of a little girl discovering a puppy.
“Are they mine?!” she asked.
“The brindle one is your’s. Finn is your mom’s,” my husband replied.
“Does he have a name?” she asked earnestly.
“No,” I said, “You get to name it.”
“I will have to think about that, “she said. “I will just call him Buddy for now.”
My husband and I looked at each other and said, at the exact same time, “The dog’s name is Buddy.”
And it was. And he was. He was her Buddy every day.
The Bruise Brothers were playful and loving. I found them often sleeping on her. Later, she would sleep on them. I was right that they would keep each other company. I was wrong that they would be less destructive together. They were about three months old when they ate my kitchen one day. I don’t mean that in a hyperbolic way or a metaphoric way. I mean that literally. They ate my kitchen. We had to remodel it. We built them a kennel in the garage. Boxers can jump five feet in the air easily. Though we built the walls high, they were hard to contain. One day, they managed to pull a Skill Saw off of a high shelf. To this day I do not know how they did it but one standing on the other’s shoulder is not beyond the realm of possibility. By the time we got home, the only thing left was a cord, a couple bolts and the blade. It was hard to be mad at them though. They would look at you like they knew they did something wrong, and they were really (really, really) sorry but couldn’t make any promises about better behavior in the future. They were soft and sweet. We always forgave them. They always forgave us.
Being litter mates, they were inseparable. We kenneled them once apart and they nearly broke the wall down trying to get back together. I made sure to tell the kennel they had to sleep together after that. Boxers have the unusual habit of sitting on each other. These two were no exception. At first, I could not figure out what was going on. Buddy would be laying there, and Finn would walk backward until his was on top of Buddy. Then he would just plop right down. They both had this expression on their jowly mugs like “What? There’s nothing weird going on here.” It was both bizarre and endearing.
Finn passed away suddenly after having a seizure while on a walk with my husband and me. It was such a jarring tragedy for all of us, but none more so than Buddy and our daughter. They spent days snuggled together. As she cried, Buddy burrowed in and loved her the only way he knew how- with all his heart. And he had a very big heart. They were inseparable. At night, I could hear her talking to him as they fell asleep. It reminded me of all the pups I had as a kid. I was so grateful she had this loving animal to keep all her secrets. I always knew when she had a bad day because she would lie down with him on his bed in the living room and pet his ears. He would put his big jowly head on her belly like he was anchoring her to the earth. He would rush to the door when her heard her car pull in and greet her with such joy.
Two years ago, we decided he needed a friend. It was a tough decision as he was already an older dog and we didn’t know if he would accept a puppy. Again, my husband went on the hunt and found a breeder in Yakima. We picked a fawn female. Our daughter was older and much harder to hide a secret from, but we pulled it off. We needed a night without her to make sure that Buddy was fine with this new addition. I remember I was sitting on the floor of the kitchen with her when my husband let Buddy in. Buddy rushed to us and I was momentarily afraid that I might have misjudged the situation. As soon as Buddy saw little Buttercup, he stopped in his tracks. He leaned down and gave her a sniff. He looked up to my husband. He looked down to me. And then he started bouncing on his front paws – a sure sign of joy in a Boxer. He loved that little girl and she gave him a whole new lease on life. He had been slowing down. As soon as she came into our lives, he started acting like a young pup himself. Oh sure, he schooled her more than once when she got out of hand. Mostly though, he let her goad him into playing with him. They were inseparable. (You can follow Buttercup’s antics on Instagram: @buttercupboxerpup .)
Last week, we said goodbye to Buddy. We are all mourning his loss deeply. It is worse, I think, because it is so painful to watch your child grieve the loss of her best friend. Buddy had an accident and broke his leg. He couldn’t recover from it. We had time together to care for him. We had time to talk as a family. Still the pain of loss is sharp. It seems this year, we have experienced a lot of loss- too much really. We have to remember that this is the price of big love from a big heart. What is the alternative? To insulate yourself form the pain of loss by refusing to give or accept love. For me, I would cry a thousand tears now than to have missed even one minute of knowing true love. Knowing the love of a big-hearted dog – true, unconditional, freely-given, forgiving, endless, unselfish, loyal, trusting – I would not trade one tear.
Buddy and His Girl
Buddy in His Prime