by Noreen McDonough
Buddy's first Christmas
Two weeks after Labor Day 2000, I brought Buddy home after answering an ad in the newspaper for a FREE DOG. Although the family rescued him from a shelter at 3 months old he was not a good match with their cat who he chased continuously. When I came for a visit, he was wiggly and wagging his tail and sat right down in my lap and gave me kisses.
Obtaining a dog marked the beginning of my new life a single mother. My two daughters loved him and treated him like a new brother. Their dad never wanted pets around.
There was a big adjustment period as Buddy was extremely energetic. I knew he was trainable because at six months, he could stay downstairs and off the furniture. However he was clever, too. Each morning as I descended the stairs I could hear a soft two-beat thump as Buddy carefully slid off the couch. I am not a good trainer and in no time, he had full run of the house and found a spot on the arm of the couch to look out the window like a cat. At 35 pounds, people outside took not and liked to see him there.
But his split second bounding whenever the door opened the slightest crack was something that quickly became troublesome. He was not fond of strangers. A mixed breed with a herding instinct, he would circle people that approached our door and try to nip from behind. There was a family a few doors down that were terrified of him which only provoked him more. And they called Animal Control many times when he had gotten loose. My boyfriend lived in rural Vermont and took him shortly after he turned three when tension in the neighborhood was high.
Within a year, I had sold that house and moved near my boyfriend and Buddy moved back with us. But he never out grew taking himself for walk when we weren't watching him closely.
On December 6, he was walking back from visiting his dog friend up the hill and was hit by a car. I am totally responsible. I had let him out while I vacuumed and was not watching. I allowed to wander. I put my dog in harms way. I also put Buddy in the way of the car and caused my neighbor who hit him with his truck much grief.
In 2000, when I made the decision to get a dog as a presence to ward off burglars or worse and a companion to me and my family, I could afford the vet and food expenses. Within seven years, my income would dwindle as my profession, an interior house painter and gardener, was one of the first to feel the recession.
I had a few bad experiences taking Buddy to the vet. The first happened when Buddy was bit by a neighbors husky. The husky had been terrorizing the neighborhood for over a year. I was VERY careful with Buddy and always had him a leash. This dog would seek dogs out on their own property and drag its owner across the street the get at dog when they were out walking. This attack occurred right as we were moving for two years so my daughter could attend an Arts Academy for her last two years of high school. I submitted the vet bill to my neighbor and it wasn't paid for a very long time. My name was put into collections.
The next time Buddy went for his rabies shot and well check about two years later, the vet asked for payment up front. I requested being billed as usual. They had taken Buddy into another room for the shot and told me I could have my dog back until the bill was paid. I ran home and got a check I knew would bounce but within the week I would have gotten paid and could pay the over draught and the bill in fill. It never occurred to me that this was illegal and they had no right to impound my dog. They were not clear at the beginning of the appointment.
I was disappointed another time at the vets. I had just paid $285 to get a full range of tests they offered for senior dogs. There was some signs of inflammation indicating he had the beginning of arthritis. i could purchase a months worth of Rimadyl for $75 or six months for $180. I make about $350/wk at the moment and was planning on visiting my 92-year-old mother for Thanksgiving. I wouldn't be able to do that I explained. I was a offered a free two week supply to see if it would make a difference.
And it did! Buddy began climbing the stairs to give me a "good morning" kiss. The woman in the business office said sometimes they will offer a payment plan. So I called after two weeks and asked if I could buy the economic size in the payment plan. I was refused for some reason.
So the day Buddy was hit by a car, I was a mess. I could not make phone calls from my rural address so I texted my elder daughter who lives in town and told her to call the animal hospital and tell them I was coming with Buddy who had a severe head wound. As I drove down the mountain with Buddy's head near by leg, I contemplated asking my daughters boyfriend to shoot him like they did in the old days. I had no money to pay for the vet. But I wanted to do the right thing for Buddy as he was a loyal and loving family member and he deserved a chance. I tried to remain positive.
As soon as I arrived at the animal hospital, I told the doctor I had no extra money but I could pay for an examination. She asked me a few questions about what happened and asked me to leave. That was the last time I saw Buddy alive.
My daughter arrived about twenty minutes later with her year old son. He had bonded with Buddy and went he would visit, insisted Buddy stay near. He was very attentive to him and in his innocent baby way, called him "Bubby!"
The doctor came out shortly after my daughter arrived. Buddy had a seizure but also tried to lift his head. She said the bill was at $200. She wanted to give Buddy a chance. She suggested keeping the fluids going and his pad heated for the overnight. She indicated there was an extra charge for that. After I agreed that would be best, she touched my arm and informed me I would need to leave a deposit...Could I do that?
The next fifteen minutes was spent getting the computer to the correct ap, writing a payment agreement that the bill would be paid in full within the month or interest charges would included, this and that. I wanted to see my dog after that and say good night. I explained that my grandson was very good friends with Buddy. Orion would love to see Buddy. They didn't think it a good idea as he was connected to a lot of tubes so I didn't but they didn't offer me to see him either. It almost time for the office to close and we left.
Twenty minutes later I was making my way up the mountain road and got a call from WITHHELD. I had to wait to get home to listen to the message in the special spot in the house were I get reception. The doctor informed me Buddy had died and I could pick him up in the morning. I turned around and determined to bring him home. The weather had been mild but it would freeze hard overnight. I could not afford to cremate him and would need to bury him right away.
I arrived at the hospital just in time. The doctor had left and the last two techs were locking up. I said I wanted to bring Buddy home and they were obliging. We went in, I collected the stained sleeping bag I had wrapped Buddy in and then received his body which had been placed in black plastic. Although he was taken from the freezer, his body was still warm.
There are times one wishes they could go back in time and make different choices so a loved one would still live. I have tried to me kind to myself and accept the kind words my friends and family offer...You gave him a good life...I did, yes...
He was so old....Yes, old and in the way...It was blessing death came quickly...Yes, think he was in shock and did not feel any pain.
But the truth is I am to blame for my Buddy's death. That's been difficult enough to live with. It's been a month. I have grieved. I have cried. I try to be present in the lives of the loved ones left behind.
But I also allowed money to be the focus of the few moments left of my dogs' life. I allowed them to take my dog. I left when they told me to leave the examination room not feeling comfortable leaving him with strangers. I never left him with strangers. Not even for an overnight. If I had to be away, he stayed with people who loved him, my ex-boyfriend, one of my daughters, or I figured out a way to take him or I did not go. I was not courageous enough to say, "I only have enough money to let Buddy go tonight. He will never regain use of his right eye and will most likely have severe brain damage if he lives. I am going to hold him in the a circle of love with my daughter and grandson and set him free. And we will be, too.