What I Learned from Buddy

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What I Learned from Buddy
Life lessons from an unlikely teacher

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He was a longhaired, black-and-tan Dachshund, running down the middle of Marysville Highway. I took him in and tried for weeks to find his owner to no avail. I let “Buddy” know that there were only two rules in the house. The first rule was, be nice to the cats. Moo, Annie, Cheekie, Dusty, and Lambie Pie were there first. He had no problem with that rule.

The second rule was, no sleeping on my bed. The first morning, I woke up and found myself staring at this sweet little face on the pillow next to me, and he was staring back. I laughed, and the second rule went out the window. Little did I know that long ago morning what an amazing journey it would be with Buddy, and that one day he would save my life, as I had saved his.

Life was never dull with Buddy. We often walked in the old cemetery in North San Juan. One morning, he ran up the hill and disappeared. I found him licking the face of a local who was sleeping off a night’s binge on a concrete bench. Coming out of his groggy state, he said, “That’s the best wake-up call I’ve ever had.” Whenever we saw “Joe” after that, either leaning against the old brick wall of The Brass Rail or Toki’s Cafe, he would wag his finger at Buddy and laugh.

Another day, Buddy headed into the bushes near an old abandoned miner’s shack. He came out with a kitten held softly in his mouth. I looked for more, but the feral mother had either moved the others or abandoned this one. Buddy forgot about his morning walk and quickly headed for home with the kitten quietly limp in his mouth. When inside, he gently dropped it in my hands with a pleading look that said, “Please, can we keep it?” Just what I need, I thought, another cat! Lottie grew up to be Lotta Lottie, but still acted like a kitten around Buddy. Whenever Buddy and I would roughhouse and play, Lottie would always plop herself down in the middle of the fray and purr. Buddy had that effect on everyone.

When I left on a trip, I took Buddy to a friend’s house in Challenge, which was about 30 miles from where I lived. The next day I had a call from my next-door neighbour, saying Buddy was there. He was thirsty, tired, and happy to be home. I was stunned. In one day, that Dachshund ran from Challenge along Oregon Hill Road, Marysville Highway over Bullards Bar Dam to Moonshine Road, then Highway 49 as it crosses the middle fork of the Yuba River, up out of the canyon on a winding two-lane road and a few miles into North San Juan. They say home is where the heart is, and Buddy sure knew where home was.

There was a special connection between Buddy and me right from the beginning that grew deeper over the years. I swear he could read my mind. On January 3, 2001, I woke up early with a headache, stretched out on the couch and fell asleep again. Around 8 a.m., Buddy barked once in my face. It was an alarm bark, one I had never heard before. He was running down the hall to the master bedroom, barking an alarm bark again. I saw the smoke then, and called 911.

The fire captain told me later that there was also a high level of carbon monoxide coming from a faulty furnace, which probably caused my headache. Buddy saved us; another five minutes and all would have been lost. Buddy was a hero and got his picture in the local paper. My neighbors and friends started calling him Buddy, The Wonder Dog.

So, this is what I learned from Buddy: Be a hero. The world needs more heroes. Be present for everyone. Be joyful. Be loving. Be kind to everyone, especially dogs. Run to be with friends. Crumbs are OK. Sometimes that’s all people can give. Smile, missing teeth and all. Beg if you have to. Be loyal. Stretch before walks and take lots of them. Take naps. Spit out the dry cat food if you get caught. It goes like BBs through your missing teeth and makes everyone laugh. Don’t bark at strangers. Don’t bark at friends either. Make the most of the time you’ve got. Get hugged a lot. Give kisses if they’ll let you. What did I learn from Buddy? “LOVE IS ALL YOU NEED.”

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