Caulfield "Buddy" Strange is a 13-year-old Parson Russell terrier. He's one of those terribly handsome, very deep characters given to black glooms and bouts of passion. A creative genius, he' s alternately aggressive and aloof. He is deeply suspicious of strangers (and friends and family) but his loyalty to me is absolute. He's dark, he's complicated, he's my best friend in the world.
He's earned quite a reputation over the years, my dog. A reputation and a number of unflattering nicknames, Snarky, Barky, Grumpy, Grouchy, Jackass, Jerkface, Trouble, Monster, Quick Draw, Bitey, BadNews, and Stabby (when he drinks), to hit the highlights. All pretty much warranted, I'm afraid. There is nothing anyone could say about my dog, that I haven't already recognized and forgiven him for. I'm not blind to his peculiarities, I just accept them and love him anyway. Like any relationship, really. Ever been in love with an actor? It's a lot of work and inevitably you will have to apologize to your neighbours. Sure, if you were to come by my house to, say, deliver flowers or collect for charity, Buddy would try to rip your head off through the door. It's his nature. But if I'm sick or sad, his tenderness would break your heart. We understand each other. We've been a team for a long time and, frankly, public scorn only draws us tighter.
But then, oh, the trespass I made. The first time I met Viv she was the size of a muffin. She actually looked a bit like a muffin, crossed with a little brown bat. French Bulldogs are known as "les petites clowns" of the dog world. They're bred for their mellow good nature and, because they're companion dogs (whereas Parson Russells are a working breed), their only jobs in life are snuggling and making you laugh.
Of course, I understood the risks involved in bringing such a tiny puppy home to Buddy, but I believed in him. I believed he would see her as a blessing and would be glad to have someone young and cute to curl up with in his dotage. Besides, she looked like a kitten crossed with a hippo. How could he not love her?
"Viviane" means "full of life." After being in the house for ten minutes she swaggered around like she owned the joint, stealing stuff, jumping on the old dog's bed, on the old dog's head, racing up and down the hall with a sock in her mouth. "She's an angel!" I cried. "She's looks like a raspberry crossed with a penny loafer!"
"She's very smart," said J., my big strong boyfriend, crawling around on the floor like a toddler.
She was bold as brass and quick as a cat; my guy and I were enchanted. So cheerful and self possessed, so utterly unafraid, it was as though she'd always been there, the yin to Buddy's yang, the sparkling pear to his stinky cheese.
But he flatly refused to acknowledge her, even when she started chewing his neck with her sharp little fish teeth. It was a better reaction than I'd expected, to be honest. Then I caught his eye and a chill ran through me. "You betrayed me," he said. "You, my only friend. How could you? It looks like a pine cone in a fur coat! What is it? Where's its tail? I feel a bit weak. And you can just keep that liver jerky in your traitorous hand, thank you. I may never eat again."
Of course he forgave me, in time. After awhile, Viv, "the ambassador of love" wore him down with her relentless puppy-ness. They play now, they wrestle. She sleeps curled into his side like a little black comma. It's possible Viv loves Buddy as much as I do. It's been a pleasure to watch my cranky old monster become a caring and patient guardian, to watch him grow and mellow, as befits his new station. And there is a new spring in his step, a swagger he didn't used to possess. Perhaps he'll need a sports car to go with his new, young companion. Anything for you, pal. You are my heart.