“Buddy, you are 7 years old, in the prime of life. These are the good years. Enjoy.” The words stared up at me from the vet’s receipt.
Buddy was a Springer Spaniel who decorated our lives for 7 wonderful years. It’s said that every bird hunter gets one great dog. Buddy was certainly mine. He had a great nose and the softest mouth for retrieving. I’ve never had a better hunting companion.
I couldn’t get the vet’s words out of my mind. Now I began to imagine what age 10 would be like. Would he even make 12?
By age 10 he slowed but was still a capable hunter. By 12 he just walked alongside. A grouse flushing or being shot at would turn back time leaving him as excited and energetic as ever.
The last few years walking along became a chore. Most days instead he’d stay and keep my wife company. . His eyes seemed to say “I’m ready” but his body just wouldn’t let him go. As he stared out the window waiting for my return, I like to imagine he was thinking about the same thing I was, remembering our days a field together.
One day returning home from work I found Buddy stretched out on the floor. When I woke him he tried to get up, but his back legs wouldn’t let him. I helped him up, only he could barely keep standing much less walk. As I looked into his eyes, he again seemed to say “I’m ready.”
His last trip to the vet was scheduled for the next day. I took the day off so we could spend it with him. With tears streaming, I got Buddy up determined to take him on one more walk. Somehow he summoned the strength to follow us as we walked the trails through the trees and bushes around our yard.
As we held him, the vet administered the injection. He let out a quick breath that with it went not only his life, but a big part of ours as well. We took him home and I put on his hunting vest and bell. We placed him in a box with his favorite blanket and a mounted grouse. He was buried under an oak tree on the edge of a ridge overlooking more of the woods and fields he had run and hunted in his whole life.
I often come evenings to sit by the oak to watch for deer. Mostly I am there to visit with an old friend. I think of the first time I saw him, when we answered an ad for Springer pups. My eye was on one that ranged around the yard. Then fate stepped in and it began to rain very hard. The pups ran for the protection of their kennel except for one.
This quiet pup stayed right by our side. Instantly we knew. I always say Buddy chose us more than we chose him.
I think of our countless hunts for grouse as he distinguished himself as a fine hunter. I remember the nightly walks he went on with us in the woods and fields. I picture him fishing, always interfering with my wife’s fishing by crawling onto her lap. I recall pulling weeds and ticks off him, how he just lay there snoring as if he relished the attention.
It’s hard to remember all the events of a lifetime, even a dog’s. Thinking about what the vet’s note said I disagree. From the excitement of bringing him home the first day to the walk on his last , they were all the good years.