My goal in life is to be as good of a person as my dog already thinks I am. ~ Author Unknown
People tend to divide themselves into two groups: you’re either a dog person or cat person. Even though I love all animals and had many growing up, I always considered myself the latter. Dogs were just too dependent and messy. Cats are like me—aloof, private, independent loners with no strings attached.
In high school, I worked in a pet shop that sold everything but cats and specialized in puppies. It was here that a cairn terrier touched my heart. Perhaps because he was so sick with kennel cough when we received him from the breeder or that he was born on my birthday or that no one was buying him so he remained in the shop for months, but we bonded and I saved every cent I earned to purchase him. It was not to be. I went to work one day and discovered his cage empty. Someone else had noticed he was special.
Some years later a cairn terrier was under my Christmas Tree. He was appropriately named Buster. And he was a buster in every sense of the word.
God gives us what we need not necessarily what we want. Buster became my seeing eye dog, although I am not blind and he was not the most obedient dog. But soon after he arrived in my life, I fell into the deep abyss of depression. I did not want a dog that needed my constant attention. I did not want a destructive animal ruining my possessions. I did not want trips to to the vets, pound, up and down streets searching for him when he got loose. I wanted to be left alone in the dark. My cats understood. Why couldn’t he?
He remained at my side, my constant companion nudging, pulling, herding me from the hurt, and led me back to the land of the living with his daily antics terrierizing the NJ shore.
Buster is one of the most colorful characters I have ever known, with a personality too big for his little body. I’ve had complete strangers pass my home and greet him by name. He has been known to jump into UPS and USPS trucks and ride off before being discovered and returned. He was also picked up a few times for loitering and panhandling and landed in ‘the pen’ muzzled like Hannibal Lechter. He crashed every neighborhood family picnic and followed children onto the school bus. He polluted the air for an entire summer during his skunk outing. Yet, to know him is to love him.
Most recently my dog was banned from PetSmart. I brought him there to be groomed and explained that although he may look like a timid little pooch he would turn into Cujo if they attempted to put clippers near his face or trim his nails. “This sweet old guy? We know what we’re doing. No muzzle necessary.” I warned them. When I returned Buster was marching around like he owned the joint, resembling a miniature lion. The last thing I heard was: “Don’t bring him back here…” As if Buster would ever want to go back there. Such an indignity would never be tolerated.
The week of Thanksgiving Buster took himself for a walk around the property—a mile. Franticly searching, I finally spotted him using binoculars—a marathon runner at the end of the race, in physical pain but smiling at the achievement. This was his last victory lap. We both knew it.
I’ve read the posts of other bloggers who have lost their dogs this year with sympathy and fear—Parsley, Olivia, and Sue to name a few. I knew my dog was old and slowing down and one day I would be writing this post, but nothing can prepare you.
On Monday, December 6th at 130 PM, my heart broke. After a rapid decline due to kidney failure, my fourteen year old cairn terrorist, Buster (the beast of the east) was put to rest.
That Christmas present wasn’t a puppy. It was the gift of unconditional love for fourteen years and the lesson that all you need in life is a soft place to rest your weary head, a bowl of food and water, a patch of sunlight, a human touch, a loyal pack to run and play with, and forgiveness.
Thank you, Buster.
I am a dog person after all.
I’m linking to Tuesday’s Show and Tail at Angela’s West Virginia’s Treasures.