My friend is gone. My sweet, adorable, noble, loyal little beagle is gone. He's been gone before; streaking across the yard toward the open gate someone forgot to shut and leaping for the chance of freedom. It was a favorite game of his-run and run and run with a great silly grin on his face, outstripping all of the neighborhood kids with a triumphant wave of his tail, a white flag whipping and teasing behind him. He'd be gone for what seemed like ages. I'd sit in fear of what could happen to him, if he was lost or cold, hurt or taken from me. But somehow he always came back. Tired, thirsty, usually smelling of manure or some other lovely something, and hungry (of course, he's a beagle), he'd trot into the yard with, if possible, an even bigger grin on his face and say proudly "Ha! I'm back!"
Not this time. This time, Buddy isn't coming back. My mom came into my room early this morning to tell me what she, my dad, and Buddy had decided. It was time to let him go. I know it is-he can't eat, he can't sleep, he can't walk. He can't even go to the toilet anymore. He's fallen apart, and no amount of medicine, surgeries, or even glue in the entire world can hold all of him together anymore. I ached inside as I closed the car door, telling him how much I love him and asking him not to forget me. Watching the car drive away with my best friend inside, knowing he wouldn't come back, nearly brought me to my knees in pain. My heart exploded inside me. There isn't enough glue to fix me, either.
Does he know that I love him? The whole time I was sitting next to him in the grass I kept asking myself that question. Did I spend enough time with him? Why didn't I do more? What if I'd done somethings differently; would he have had more time with us? These thoughts kept running through my head while I memorized the smooth, silky feel of his fur into my fingers, etched the lines of his face into my memory, burned the smell of him into my nose. The pictures I have of him won't be complete without all of the little details-just a picture isn't enough for me to remember him by.
I remember some of the little things right now-the way he perked up his ears when he heard the car keys, how he slunk away from the thought of putting on his sweater before a winter walk, his comical grin and beg trick while he waited patiently for a treat. I can see his hackles raised from the tip of his nose all the way down to the tip of his tail at the sight of a cat. I can the rumbling growl in his throat before loosing a baying bark like a cannon firing and the whine of excitement when he saw us walking towards him from school.
I remember the guilty expression on his face when he'd get into the garbage can and scatter debris all over the floor, the way he'd sort of slink/walk over to us and ask for forgiveness with a half grin and a half wag of his tail. I remember him actually cornering a cat once and looking over his shoulder at me, completely confused as to what to do next. Actually catching one of those creatures was never his plan-he just wanted to chase it as far and as fast as possible.
I remember the nights with the thunderstorms, and he'd hide under the covers with me. I remember the Fourth of July fireworks, and how he thought it was thunder and couldn't figure out why I was dancing around with lightning in my hand, making circles and even spelling his name. I remember him longing to be able to read and write-pawing a book off of the shelf, opening it with his nose, putting a pen in his mouth, and trying to copy the movements of my hand by moving his head back and forth. Sometimes he'd get lucky and make a mark on a page; other times he'd just get frustrated and chew the book to pieces instead. I remember reading to him when I was younger-picture books mostly. When I tried sharing Harry Potter with him, he got bored. "Too long!" he'd look at me and leave.
I remember how much he hated balloons. One night he saw something on the stairs. A floating head! It was coming right towards him. Shaking and wanting to run, he continued to growl and bark to get my parents attention. Once they saw what the commotion was about, they began to laugh. My mom reached to grab the balloon and show Buddy what it really was. The moment she touched it, he wailed and ran as fast as he could into the bedroom, diving under the bed. I remember how we were partners in crime. The two of us would hide in the closet by the backdoor, waiting together to see how long it would take for someone to find us. I remember he'd steal my stuffed animals to make me chase him around the house. I remember running to dive under the bed with him and accidentally seeing all of my Christmas presents, and how sad he looked when I began to cry.
I remember how much he loved toast. I used to make some every morning in seventh grade. He'd hear the toast pop out of the toaster and come running to have a bite. I remember how he would chase Misty through the house. I remember how he's taught her everything he knows, like a big brother or uncle. She idolizes him. She can't figure out why we were all so sad to see him drive away. That's going to be so hard.
I remember how well he could express himself to me. I remember the first day I actually understood what he said. I called him to me, and he gave me a disdainful look. I said to him, "Come on, Buddy, five more inches won't kill you." He raised his paws off of his head and clearly said, "Won't kill you either." I moved five more inches.
I remember the first day we found Buddy. It was a cold, snowy night in early December. Choir rehearsal for the Christmas Concert had just ended, and my mother would not stop talking. I peeked out the window and was immediately drawn outside. The white ground of the churchyard had not yet been touched by a foot and lay quiet. The perfection called me out from the warm belly of the church with the single thought of stamping the snow to oblivion. I was not the only one who had this idea.
A small, funny looking dog had his nose to the ground, completely oblivious that I was watching his smell-fest. I whistled to him, and he froze. I took a step towards him, calling "Here, doggie!" He wagged his tail, still frozen in place. Another step, another step, and another step. I was reaching out to touch his head when he was suddenly gone. Round and round and round in circles he ran, getting closer to me on each pass, until he stopped a few feet from me, panting and grinning in a bow. I stepped towards him again, hands out, and just as I could almost touch him he was off again, circling and circling around me. My sisters had now joined in the fun, chasing this teasing little dog and trying to catch him.
I waited. I knew what was up-it was a game to him. He'd circle, getting closer and closer, and once I could reach him he'd take off again to play some more. He was teasing me. This time when he stopped, I didn't move. I let him take the first step towards me, his nose quivering and his tail erect, ears perked in curiosity, head tilted to the side. He sniffed around my still form, his body relaxing visibly. And just as he got close enough, I pounced.
At first I was afraid I'd flattened him beneath my snow-suited body, but he was wriggling and upset that I'd figured out his game. I picked him up (he was rather heavy for an eight-year-old to carry) and took him to the porch of the church. My mom was still inside talking with the choir director and I showed her the dog. I didn't ask if we could keep him, just if we could take him home for the night. It was cold and wet, and I figured he was hungry.
Taking him home that night turned into a wonderful nine and a half years full of happy grins, wagging tails, garbage-strewn floors, sneaking paws, listening ears, and just all-around wonderfulness. He made friends everywhere he went just by looking at them. People would come up to him saying, "Hey, buddy! What's his name?" That night I'd found him, I knew he should be called Buddy. Because that's what he is.
He's everyone's friend. We took him to the park-new friends and new stories of chasing things. We took him to choir rehearsal-he joined in on a long fermata with huge bay, which the tenors copied on the next run of the number. We took him to school-everyone loved "Buddy the Shiloh dog." We took him sledding-bad idea, he took off and I once again employed my awesome football player tackling skills. We bought him presents at Christmas-the first Christmas he was with us he opened other people's presents just for the fun of playing with the wrapping papers, so we got him a few of his own to play with. We got him toys-chewy ropes that he would never let go of, pulling me across the kitchen floor, a play-growl in his throat, head whipping from side to side.
I took him with me when I went driving sometimes. I'd get a snow cone, he'd get a piece of chicken, and we'd just drive. He sat next to me on the front seat, nose quivering and eyes seeing everything. All of our friends love him, and he reciprocates that affection. I introduced him to my dates, most of which whom he approved of. If he hadn't, I probably wouldn't have gone.
He laughed with us, he cried with us. He never kissed our cheeks like Misty does. When we were really sad, he'd come and find us. He'd sit next to us, pressing against us in a hug, and lick our hands. He knew how to help us. That's what he always did. He helped everyone he met in some way. Because he was special. Buddy wasn't just a dog. He was a member of the family. He even converted my dad into being a dog-appreciator, if not a dog-lover. His soulful eyes, noble posture, and loyal attitude have changed my life forever. I feel like a part of me has died. I don't think it will ever awaken again.
He isn't coming back. My Buddy isn't coming back.