Ok I'm feeling a bit mopey and blue. self pitying maybe. it's allowed once in a while.
just having a pants month. lots of things piling up and feeling like I'm standing here with both arms outstretched holding up the fabric of my life.
my dog died on the 20th. my beautiful labrador retriever, Buster. just turned eight years old and my constant companion. he had a couple of health issues like arthritic elbows and a sensitive stomach, so he had days when he ddn't want to exercise and days when for whatever reason his food made him vomit. he'd had those all his life though. Then a week before he died he started vomiting a lot and it appeared he was in lot of pain. several visits to the vet yielded the advice that his arthritis had got a lot worse and to give him very small amounts of a common human pain reliever tablet. (the particular tablet had been tested on dogs originally) so we gave him this medication and it seemed to be working. we cut back his exercise, tried our best to give him every comfort we could. then he stopped eating. began panting a lot and no matter where he lay, sat, stood, he just seemed to be in pain and discomfort.
now i should say Buster came to us as part of the puppy walking scheme for the guide dogs for the blind association here in britain. we did all the house training and basic command training and obedience stuff for his first year.
we knew then he was special. individual and with a personality beyond most dogs. he was cheeky and a lovable rogue who absolutely loved being out and about and the local nature reserve and woods were his domain. it was like his primal instincts were all intact yet tempered with a soft side and a willingness to be lead and to learn. he climbed mountains with us and everywhere we went so did he. he slept on our bed he sat on the sofa and watched TV with us. he'd even follow us into the bathroom and lie on our feet when we had 'business' to do. he even tried jumping in the shower with us if he could. he just never tired of learning and trying new things.
then he spent a year back at guide dog HQ doing all their training. which we knew he'd hate. very restrictive regime. none of the comforts of the home he grew up in. and when after his year we got the phone call to say his arthritis had failed him on his final assessment and would we want to adopt him we jumped at the chance. got to the training centre and as soon as Buster saw us he made a beeline for us and demanded we take him home. even offered us his leash. his trainer took him out to show us what he was capable of and how he was technically an uber cool guide dog who would have passed with flying colours if it wasn't for his elbows. my partner pete jokingly said to buster to find our car, and Buster sniffed it out first go. then sat by the door waiting to get in. it was like he'd spent this curious year of schooling and waited patiently for us to come take him home.
the last six years he's had an excellent life. we never treated him like a pet. he deserved better than that. his vocabulary uderstanding was enormous. time and time again we'd have to find new words for things like dinner and going out in the car, he taught himself to fetch the mail that came through the front door flap. even sensing by weight and envelope type which wre junk and which were important. he paid that much attention to what we did with mail. white and brown envelopes good, multicoloured single fold flyers bad. he just picked up the correct mail and brought it to us. not a tear or a tooth mark. he also taught himself to clean his paws after he'd been out to pee. one day he was on his way into the house and pete said to him to clean his paws and buster just stopped in his tracks and licked his paws clean. and after that he did it every time. and that's no word of a lie it was just that easy with buster.
he was also the only dog I've known who would sit and beg for vegetables when we were preparing dinner. He absolutely loved carrots and would crunch on one the way most dogs chew a bone. carefully starting at the thick end and working methodically down to the tip. strangely he never begged for any of our food. he'd sit and watch us eat but never begged. then after we'd all eaten he'd lie on my feet and snooze. then I'd follow pack behaviour and groom him round his face and under his ears and under his chin and he'd roll over onto his back for a belly tickle.
over the last six years I've become more house bound due to my own health. and Buster was here with me day in day out, by my side. lying on my feet or next to me with just one paw touching my feet. or on my bed next to this desk. he'd curl up with his head on my pillow and snooze and occasionally he'd get up and come over to me and put his paw on my knee and then he's climb up with his paws round my sides and his chest resting on my legs and hug me. not exactly comfortable for me but he loved his cuddles and hugs. it was one of his most endearing features. no matter who you were or what you were doing Buster loved affection. loved giving it. he cared so much about Pete and I he'd literally stick to us like glue if either of us got ill. keeping watch, offering comfort and warmth. every so often nuzzling us to see if we were ok.
and the conversations we'd have. we talked to him constantly. and the last three years he started answering back. just gutteral grunting but it was a language. different discernable sounds. yes and no. leave me alone, feed me, need a pee. hug please.
Another thing, apparently dogs can't make choices. Buster could. we kept a box of treats in the kitchen and it contained three or four different types. if you offered him one of each he'd select the one he wanted and leave the rest. when we went walking and reached a fork in the path we'd ask him which way to go and he'd choose the path he wanted. He had something about him that was almost human. which isn't to say I'm anthropomorphising him. he was a dogs dog. unbelievably canine nd a bit lupine even. yet his intelligence and depth of soul, his demeanour and character were such that if you believed in reincarnation you'd swear he'd been human in a prior life.
everyone who met Buster fell in love with him. People came to our house on the pretense of seeing us but they were really coming for Buster. He was a ladies man. like leggy blondes. and he had his harem of female pooches at the local woods where he got his morning walk. certain favourites he'd get frisky with. which was odd considering he'd been neutered. something guide dog people insisted on.
Anyway thursday the 19th of this month he got real bad. went and lay down outside and couldn't get up. Pete had to carry him in and we'd made a decision that he must have a bad stomach problem or chest problem or a blockage in his colon or something. so we were taking buster back to the vets on the friday. I stayed up til five in the morning listening out for him. I could hear him in the bathroom moving restlesly but he seemed to be lying down and there were no whimpers. as i turned out my bedside lamp i heard him move and go and flop in the main bedroom. I fell asleep hoping he'd found somewhere to lie and be comfortable.
Eight o-clock am and Pete woke me calling me through to the bedroom where Buster was lying next to the bed, his head resting on his right front leg and his paws just touching Pete's slippers. his eyes were closed. he'd died in his sleep. My best friend and solid companion. My little monster puppy wolf was gone. I sat on the floor and stroked his head and wept. feeling helpless and lost. my world turned upside down. I grabbed his bedding blanket and covered him up. saying goodbyes.
I thought he'd go on forever. he was strong, brave, resillient. he got through every setback with dignity and held his head high at all times. he was my strength, my rock. the one that kept bringing me back from the dark places my mind likes to take me to. he was like a guardian angel to me. he guided me. more than the way he was trained to. he took me on a journey of self discovery and taught me that I have a soul and a huge capacity for loving and caring. he taught me about pack behaviour and i taught him about ours. a meeting of minds with a strange intermingling somewhere in the middle. he showed me how selfish and self centered I'd been most of my life. changed me. forged a bond so strong it was unbreakable. i saw the world from a different perspective. from his level. and i tried to show him the world from mine. and we had a blast. we had so many good times. all my life I wanted to be 'the boy and his dog' and Buster was that dog. he and I were inseperable. a mighty force to be reckoned with, kings of our domain....
we're waiting on the autopsy report. we truly don't know why he died. he was cremated and returned to us in a 'mahogony style' casket. the plaque reads 'Buster 10.5.99 - 20.7.07 Run free, be happy.' I've placed the casket in the front living room on a shelf facing the window where he'd often sit and watch the world go by. On top of the casket is one of his favourite toys. a small stuffed toy rabbit i brought him back from the local zoo.
And now I feel I'm alone. not lonely. but alone. empty inside. like half of me is gone. People tell me to get another dog but no other dog could ever match up to Buster. wehad two other guide dog pups before him and hey were great dogs. with their own virtues and fantastic characters. Buster stands alone, a class above. A class of his own.
and why post this? To record something, to tell you guys something about me. To try and inch that little bit closer to closure.I'm not asking for sympathy. I'm not even asking you to reply. I just needed to do this.