Dear Buddy the Dog

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To Bodian הכלב Locke, my Æthelhund, O Doggy Boy, Spider-Dog, Bluetick Coonhound, Sweet Puppy, Buddy:

When I first saw you on Facebook, you looked like a long-legged version of the Beagle I had always wanted. Turns out, you were way better than a Beagle. When we first met, we danced--and I don't really like to dance. But I loved dancing with you. Maybe it was your boundless energy; the way you raced across the yard; the way you howled with reckless abandon; the way you jumped or climbed on top of anything you could...I suspected you might be a handful, and I suspected you might be the perfect addition to our family. I was right on both counts.

From the very beginning of your time with us, you drew us all into a now-familiar family rhythm: Morning and evening walks, feeding and watering you, playing with you, picking up poop in the backyard--and you always let us know when it was trash day. There were extra bonus parts to this rhythm, too: Tracking you down when you hopped the wall and escaped into the neighborhood; comforting you in the middle of a storm; vacuuming mountains of hair out of the carpet and furniture; filling in holes you dug in the backyard; waking up to the tune of "Buddy peed in his bed again!"; the subsequent bath times; and also that whole episode with the skunk.

But it was a joy and a privilege to do all of those things for you, even if we didn't fully realize it at the time, and now we'd give the world for a chance to do any of them just one more time.

There were also times of pure joy you brought to our family: Watching you go bonkers over a toy animal at Christmas or your birthday, and then watching you shred it to pieces (The skunk, the bear, the raccoon, and pig, among others); watching you frolic and roll around in the grass or in the snow; how you would sing along in the most musical way when we played the bagpipes, or the trombone, or the jSax (you really did belong in this family!); the goofy voice we concocted for you that fit your personality so well; exploring the far reaches of the neighborhood on long walks with Grady (walk); snuggling with Abby (girl) in your kennel; how you would make a beeline for Jonah's room whenever you escaped your kennel; that lady who would sometimes cook you eggs for breakfast; and especially the way you somehow knew when I was getting ready to go sit on the front porch or in the backyard, and you would get so excited because you fully expected to be out there with me. I loved having you out there with me. We all did.

We all thought we had so much more time with you, Buddy--at least a few more years to do all these things. We wanted you to grow old with us, and to say goodbye to you slowly. But you never did anything slowly in your life. I'm so glad you finally got to sleep on our sofa your last night with us (sorry, Amy), and I'm glad Dr. Freund gave you pain medication so you didn't feel any pain in your last few hours. Your stomach, which was such a driving force in your life, finally gave out on you--but your heart, your spirit, your stubborn, strong, curious, enthusiastic personality will live forever, and that's how we will always remember you.

This past March, you got to come to church with us for the Blessing of the Pets. You were so excited to be around all the people and all the animals. And we were excited to finally get to share this place with you, that has been such a part of our lives. It was here in this place that I blessed you, prayed for you, and gave thanks to God for you. I'm so thankful I had the opportunity to do that, because you have been such a blessing to us.

On Tuesday, the day you died, Grady and Jonah and I (the boys in your pack) brought you back to this sacred place of blessing, and we dug a hole for you--you would have been so proud of how much we dug! We laid you to rest like a true Viking prince, with stones and sticks and your favorite doggy treasures. Today, we're all here together as a family--your family--to bless you again, to give thanks for your life again, and to commend your spirit to the Dog of Wisdom, or the God of Wisdom (I think they are one and the same).

Buddy, you began your life as a lost and lonely puppy, not loved the way you ought to have been. But by the grace of God, and the help of some compassionate travelers, you found your way to us. You found your pack. You found your home. You found all the love that a dog could want. Thank you for finding us. Thank you for loving us back. Thank you for making us a better, stronger pack than we ever could have been without you. We love you, Buddy. And we always will.

With Love (on behalf of your family),

Neal, your Alpha.