By Elaine Webster

I met my husband, Blake Webster, in 1973 and he had almost as much hair, mustache, and beard as his German Shepherd puppy, Déjà vu—same reddish brown color too. It didn’t take me long to fall in love with both of them. For our honeymoon the three of us traveled the United States and Canada in Blake’s sixty-six Chevy camping van. Since Déjà, we hadn’t had another German Shepherd, that is until Buddy D came into our lives last year with a romp and gallop.

Buddy

Buddy

It was hard to conceive that a twelve-year-old dog could be so vibrant.  And those feet—look at those feet. If separated from their owner, you would guess that a bear was missing some toes. Bob had two dogs, at the time, that were ready for foster care. At first, we thought that Euripides, would come to live with us, until Bob took a look at Google Maps and realized that we had a yard with Buddy’s name written all over it. A flat, grassy area, with a six-foot fence was perfect for the dog that “Must Play Ball.” Bob sent us pictures, which Buddy’s former owner, Sharon took of Buddy placing tennis balls in a ball machine.  Once dropped, he stared intensely, until the ball shot out of the tube and the game was on. High flies, and grounders, he caught them all, and refilled his personal ball hopper for the next inning. You can understand why, Sharon, when she knew she was dying of cancer, wanted just the right placement for her outfielder.

be_the_ball1-1We knew Sharon and Buddy were close. She sent a slew of toys, balls, beds, and treats along with her beloved friend. She called us regularly as she weakened. And one night, Buddy awoke with a start, as if someone was in our bedroom—tail wagging—soft sniffling—and a search of the room. It was several days before Bob told us of Sharon’s passing. Apparently it was the same night. We believe she stopped by for one last kiss before she passed over the Rainbow Bridge.

As writers, we often host literary salons, and Buddy became our resident greeter. What could be better than a group of twenty or more ball tossers all gathered around to keep a boy happy? It didn’t hurt that food tidbits were tossed as well, along with an ear rub. Blake works at home, and his clients come over to see Buddy as much as to conduct business. Talk about the perfect advertising campaign with an ideal pitch-man (pun intended).

buddy_backyard_1000_2Buddy’s hearing and eyesight have never been good. One eye had been treated for years due to a cataract-like thickening of the cornea. Up to last week, Buddy did okay compensating with his good eye for his lack of senses. However, one morning (yes it was that fast) it was obvious that Buddy could no longer see. The first few days were tough—walking into walls, stumbling over steps and scraping his nose on the stone flowerbeds. But worse than that, Buddy could no longer play ball.—depression set in fairly quickly.

buddy_beach_010113_3We took Buddy to the vet last Saturday and of course, the office fell in love. A wellness blood test came up fairly normal, with low thyroid levels, but not much else. A trip to the Ophthalmologist, confirmed that Buddy will never see again. Retinal degeneration can be sudden and irreversible. The guess is that there may be an underlying cancer, but without a series of expensive tests, the cause isn’t certain. Blake and I have been through the process with other pets of spending endlessly on a diagnosis and treatment, only to be told that the end is near. So, along with Bob we decided to treat the obvious symptoms of diarrhea and anxiety with medications, to keep Buddy comfortable. Surprisingly, with the help of a few new toys, that squeak and ring, Buddy has figured out some simple ball maneuvers. Then just yesterday, I looked out the kitchen window to see him rolling on his back and kicking his feet in the air. His voice is scratchy, but he still manages to announce his presence as he gingerly descends the back steps. Then its search and rescue time, until that ball is secured and dropped on a lap for a game of “snatch it if you can.”

We don’t know how much longer we’ll have Buddy. Yet, he has brought so much joy to our home.  There’s something special about Thulani fosterers—how we can love and let go—because we are the ones that are blessed by these kind and caring dogs.