Wednesday, August 15, 2012
A brief sad pleasure
It was 100 degrees outside when I got out of the car and a strange dog crawled out of a hedge next to the driveway.
He wore a dusty black collar without identification.
We'd been gone for only two days, and someone had discreetly dumped the dog on our quiet driveway.
He stood there panting noisily and looking at us, and I felt resentment.
I didn't blame the dog.
He was gray in the muzzle, had bad breath, a torn ear, and stiff back legs.
His coat was mixed with the thick dusty undercoat of winter.
But he had clear eyes and a good disposition.
I gave him water and kibble, thinking about my schedule and this new responsibility.
One thing was certain. If this dog decided to hang around it was going to have to sleep in Fred's outdoor dirt bed under the hedge.
And sure enough, he was there Saturday morning, wagging a bobbed tail that looked like a fat coin purse.
I fed and watered my new "Buddy".
Afterwards he squeak-whined with that familiar dog-look of expectation.
Then he stabbed me with his forefoot.
"What? You wanna be brushed?"
I could tell it was a rare pleasure, and the old hair came out in gobs.
But brushing wasn't enough.
There was more of the look and the squeak-whine.
"Now what? You want a massage?"
He loved that too.
He followed me to the chair on the back porch and put his head on my knee.
The dog was a gentle charmer. I fed and brushed him, and massaged his neck three more times that day.
How could someone abandon a sweet trusting dog like this?
Many years ago someone had paid to have him castrated, and he liked being put on the leash. Obviously someone had taken him for walks.
He was an old person's dog. That's my guess, but who knows the owner's story? It may be even sadder than the dog's.
I put a notice in a local community forum, but no one claimed Buddy.
Butte County Animal Control said they would pick him up on Monday.
I hated the thought. Whatever was in store for the dog, I would to treat him well during our brief time together.
On Sunday Buddy stood stoically as I sluiced him with cold water and lathered him with shampoo. His pleasure was unmistakable when I rubbed him dry.
In two short days Buddy was as attached to me as I was to him.
At dusk he came to the front door to look in at us as we watched TV. Fred was sleeping on the floor. Then he ambled off to his dirt bed.
On Monday morning the Animal Control truck arrived, and the dog knew something was about to change.
I sat down with the warden and waited for Buddy to approach.
"If there are no takers, and he's not fatally ill", I asked, "can you call me?"
"I'm sure I can find someone who will give him a good home. I just need more time".
"Do you really want to know?" asked the warden. "A lot of people regret it when they find out".
He said he'd make a note in the record.
Buddy allowed himself to be collared, and the warden lifted him into the traveling compartment.
And so he surrendered himself to yet another person. A gentle old dog. Life was not in his control.
What would happen to him next? How could such an animal be found unsuitable as a pet?
It all made me very sad.
As soon as they left, I took Fred for a three hour walk on the flume.
We cut the usual spectacle with Fred yodeling in anticipation as we drove up Humbug, and he did his usual crazy stuff, racing back and forth, leaping wildly into the water, barking, and surrendering the stick only on his terms.
Dog-youth looks like it will last forever, but of course nothing does.
Fred and I live on different time lines, but he's slowing down and catching up with me.
We'll converge in our dotage, but we're going to stick it out until the end.
And I'm still hoping . . . . hoping the animal control folks in Oroville will have the wisdom to see that old people need old dogs like Buddy.