Learning Compassion Through the Eyes of a Dog: The Story of Buddy
My dad always told me: "A true man has compassion. A true man is strong. And just because a man is strong gives him no excuse not to execute compassion."
Now that I am old, and watch my grandchildren play from my rocking chair atop my porch, I see what my father meant.
Pets can teach you things. Buddy was God's way of saying to me: "I know this is going to be painful, but I am going to teach you life lessons you will carry with you the rest of your life...from the dog I am giving you."
The Little Boy who Had a Buddy
I was six years old. A ruddy, green eyed hyperactive youngster with pebbles I stuffed in my knee high socks. Momma had to constantly get onto me for the holes in my knees from stuffing rocks in my socks.
The socks belonged to my dad. I kept sneaking them out after he went to work in the morning. One morning as I crept out to play (with my daddy's white socks) my momma hollered: "Mike come here young man."
Oh God. I'm in trouble. I got caught. I am grounded for the rest of my life.
But it wasn't like that. There was a box atop the table, rustling and whimpering from inside the box propelled me towards the dining room. Inside the box was you, my buddy. Joyful with glee, I picked up the little black Labrador, cuddling him to my chest, kissing him atop his head.
You looked at me, blinked your black eyes, your fur with hazes of purple as black and shiny as your coat was. We became best friends, I named you my Buddy. We romped the back yard by day, and cuddled in bed at night.
In the winter, you kept my lap warm until you grew so big I could only handle your head atop my feet. I shared my cocoa with you, and fed you scraps from the table at my lap. My dad would ignore me doing it, my mom would smile.
Years passed by. I graduated high school, and you were the mascot. Old, and gray, your eyes dim but still vibrant with life. You never liked any of my girlfriends throughout high school and made sure everyone knew it.
You knew something about them I could not see. They were not meant to last. They were fleeting, vain and unreliable. You sensed my brokenness when I got traded in for a new boyfriend by the one I thought I loved. But at the end of the day, you were the one by my side assuring me it would all be okay.
When I did meet Kelli, you approved of her by slobbering her head on daily occasions and romping with her through the fields as we set up picnics by the creek. She loved you. I loved you. We loved each other, and you became an extension of our bond.
One morning I woke up by myself, which was unusual because you always woke me up by stuffing your nose into my pillow, your paw plastered atop my head. I was going away to college in the Fall, I was enjoying my break until I started. You became slower in your walks with me along the pond, staying closer to the back porch, resting your head atop the fireplace mantle as if looking for heat that wasn't there.
I had already given you my blankie. A shred of a homemade quilt in blues and reds my mamaw made me when I was five.
You didn't want to move. I sat there all day with your head in my lap, gently rubbing your snout, my arm over your tired body. I knew it was time. So did you.
I called Kelli, and she came right away from work. She sat with us, cradling your head in her chest until you took your last breath. We cried with one another when you said goodbye.
It's amazing what a child learns from having a pet. But you were not just any pet. You were my best friend, my buddy. I reminisced the times you protected me from snakes at the pond, and joined me in the water when I slipped on the rocks. We frolicked all day in the creek during the summers.
I wrapped you in my blankie, and we buried you at our favorite spot by the creek under the Willow my momma had planted the day her and dad moved into this house. The tree had grown so much over the years, but so had you.
And in many ways, you taught me how to grow too. I learned perseverance. I learned patience. I learned what true, unbiased compassion is, all because I had you.
After you died I mourned for weeks and took lonely walks like we used to do, dreaming of you by my side. It was the first time in my life I had ever seen my dad cry.
Looking back now, as a grandpa myself, I see how God brought you to my life. I did eventually get another black Labrador, but there was only ever just one "Buddy". Thank you for giving me the opportunity to have been your owner.