Buffalo - Our Special Dog
|They Called Me Buffalo |
June 1985 - March 2000
I have always loved winter - with my thick fur coat I don't mind the cold, and the snow is fun to run and jump in. When my master and I would go out into the winter woods skiing, there were smells and animals everywhere to explore - every stone wall, every brush pile!
.....but this winter has been tough for me. I've hurt my back, and my back legs don't work right anymore. Walking in the snow is real hard, and since I can't see anymore, it is even worse. My people and I still go for my walk after supper, but it is sometimes very short, and I have trouble slipping and sliding.
I sleep most of the time, and I treasure each day when I can lay outside on the deck in the cool air. Thankfully, the last few weeks have been mild, and my people let me stay out for as long as I like. My master sometimes comes out and covers me with a blanket so I don't get too cold, and speaks softly to me.
I hear my master and my mistress talking about me, and what the veterinarian has said. They say that I am not going to get better, and that my "quality of life" has deteriorated. All I know is that I am in pain a lot of the time, and getting up and down is very hard for me. My master sometimes has to lift my back legs up to help me stand up. I'm very tired,......so very tired.
I am ready, and my master had a long talk with me yesterday - he is finally ready too - but it is very hard on him, I can tell. He loves me very much, but it is time. I have devoted my life to him and my mistress, and I love them as hard as I possibly can.....I will miss them, and all the wonderful times we have had together these last 15 years....but it is time for me to go to sleep one last time.
But, I'm getting ahead of myself - and please don't be sad. Let me tell you about myself, and the wonderfully full life that I've had - my people and I.
Puppyhood - Michigan 1985-1986
I don't remember too much at the beginning. My mother and my two siblings and I were together, and then I was alone with this strange human. She put me in a cardboard box and we drove away from my family. The first night was terribly lonely for me, but my new people fussed over me, and put me in a bed with a soft towel in the kitchen.
"What do you think of him?" asked my mistress. "I saw an ad in the paper for Lhasa Apso puppies up at Park Lake."
"He looks like a Lhasa mix" said this new person who had just come in the door. I found out soon that he was my new master. He picked me up and looked me over.
"Probably is, but the people who had him didn't know for sure."
"Well, we'll find out when he gets older." My new master put me down, and I walked back into the kitchen.
"He doesn't track right..." he said. "Are you sure you want to keep him?"
"He'll do fine....he's had all his puppy shots, and is already neutered. I picked him because he was the most curious of the litter. I think that we should keep him." she said.
"Do you have a name in mind?"
"Let's call him 'Buff', because that's his color."
"I won't have a dog with a silly preppy name like that" he said
"Ok, then we can call him 'Buffalo'", my mistress said.
"Buffalo it is then" my master said, scratching my ears and rolling me over to scratch my belly.
And so, they called me Buffalo, and I had a new set of people to live with. I've never heard another dog with my name, and my people kept telling me that I was special, with a special name.
That October, we drove back up to Maine, where my master's youngest son, Jim, was going to high school. The boys in Jim's dormitory all played with me, and called me "Spike" - I really liked all the attention and rough-housing, and would have loved to stay with them. Jim let me spend the night at the dorm with him. We did get to walk all over campus, and saw a soccer game, and where Jim had his classes. I really like this picture with my mistress - I was a very big, and fuzzy puppy.
My people had a farm, just south of Lansing, Michigan, with lots of grass and fields to wander in. They would take me for long walks - out to the barn, and to the back fields and woods as I got older. I learned my way around pretty quickly, and I soon forgot about my mother.
There was an orange tiger cat at the farm. Dragon had been there for years, and ran the place. The people thought they did, but Dragon knew better. They fed him and he had the run of the place. He roamed the woods and fields whenever he wanted, and would sometimes go out back with the master on a hike, or to sit on the log when he was deerhunting. I was too little to do that - I still had problems getting over logs and through the high grass.
My mistress started taking me to the bookstore in Eaton Rapids that she and the master ran. To me it was a huge old building, a little scary, but with lots of places for a young puppy to explore. My favorite spot was the closet under the stairs, right behind my mistress' desk. She fixed me a bed there, with my food and water dishes. When the little bell rang at the front door to the shop, I would run back into my "cave" - I was terrified of these strangers who kept coming into the store.
That shyness didn't last long, however, and I soon started running up to meet customers - they called me the "official bookstore greeter". I particularly liked coming up behind the ladies and sniffing the backs of their legs with my wet nose - oh, how they'd jump!.
"Has anybody seen?..
My master made up the dog song for me, and would whistle or sing it to me when he'd come home. They talked about me - my master wanted me to stay outside at Seven's old dog house overnights, but my mistress wanted me inside. I'd get chained out if both were gone during the day, but I never had to spend a night in the dog house.
Growing Up - New Hampshire 1986-1991
When I was not quite a year old, my master took a new job in New Hampshire. He went back in February 1986 to start work, and my mistress and I and Dragon followed a few months later on the long drive from Michigan. I'd never driven in a car so far, and found that I enjoyed it. She would stop every couple of hours to let me sniff all the new smells at the roadside areas. Sometimes she'd let me stick my head out the car window and "zoom" in the breeze.
My people bought a big old farmhouse in Canterbury, NH for Dragon and I to live in. I loved the place - there were all kinds of rooms to explore, and a big barn, and my own fenced back yard to go out into whenever I wanted. But the best places were the big fields and woods. There was a big rock out in the field behind the barn, and I would wander out there to check out the smells - deer used to come into the fields at night and there were always wonderful smells. My master and I went for long hikes down through the fields and into the woods.
"Come along, Buff" he'd call "Let's go for a walk."
The woods were alive with scents, and deer, squirrels and grouse. I loved to chase rabbits - they would hang out in the brush piles that my master had made when he cleared the old woods tracks. There was a little brook down back, and we would wander up and down it's banks. Once we came across a porcupine den in a grove of hemlocks.
"Come back from there" my master cautioned "you don't want to mess with him -you'll get quills in your face." He pulled me back, and put me on the leash that he always carried in his pocket. He never used a leash generally, however, since I stayed close to him, at least most of the time. Once in a while I'd get to following a good scent and forget where I was, and pretended that I couldn't hear my master calling. Then when he'd catch up to me, he'd be mad and scold me - but that didn't happen very often. When I had a run-in with a skunk one time, I remember that he was a little cross as he was giving me my tomato juice bath, but I didn't like the skunk any more than he did!
In the winter, my master and I went cross-country skiing all over the country side. When he skiied down the hills, I had to run as fast as I could to keep up, but usually I could wander around and check out all the winter smells as he skiied along. If the snow was real deep, I would just follow along behind and let him break the trail. I remember the first time that we went out when the snow was heavy and wet - it clung to the long hairs on my legs until I'd built up snow trousers and could hardly walk! My master carefully cleaned off the snow clumps. From then on, whenever the snow was wet he would wrap plastic bread bags around my legs with masking tape - it really felt strange, but it kept the snow from building up on my legs.
My master got worried on one ski trip into the woods behind the Shaker Village. We were making our own trail through a grove of white pines and maples, and we got separated. My master called to me "Here Buffalo, here boy!", but I couldn't see him anywhere. I was scared that I'd lost him somewhere, although I could hear him fine. I couldn't see him anywhere!
Finally, he whistled and I ran over to the sound - there he was! He fussed over me, and we went back home.
Later I heard him talking with my mistress -
"I'm worried about Buff's eyesight" my master said. "I was only about 25 yards from him, but he couldn't see me. I was standing still, but was right out in clear view. Do you suppose there is something wrong with his eyes?"
They took me to the vet, and then drove me to a dog eye specialist in Massachusetts where they shown lights in my eyes, and dropped cotton balls to see if I would watch them fall. I thought that this was a strange thing to do, but my people were very concerned, so I tried my best to help out. The specialist said that there was nothing wrong with my eyes, and to just watch. I did notice, after that, however, that whenever my master called to me he also waved his hands - it was much easier for me to find him when he did.
My master used to take me fishing a lot, and I would explore the banks of the streams while he waded out to fly fish. Once, he was out in the Merrimack River and I wanted to go to him. I jumped in the deep water and started swimming out to where he was, but the current was very fast and I was swept downstream. He made a lunge for me and grabbed my collar. As he helped me back on the bank, he didn't know whether to be mad at me or laugh at me - but he always kept a close watch on me after that. Sometimes my mistress would come and sit on a rock next to the stream. She didn't fish, but would bring a book to read, and treats for me. When my master caught a fish, he would show it to me, and let me lick the fishtail before he put it back in the water. As I got better at being a fishing dog, I would watch for the fish to rise, and would sometimes bark if he missed a strike. It is a hard job, being a fishing dog, but I worked very hard at it.
Alpha Dog - California 1991-1997
On day, early in 1991, my master sat me down, held my head between his hands, and spoke very seriously with me:
"Buff, I have to leave you now to go away. Your mistress will join me in about a month, and will bring you with her. We are going on a long trip, and you and Dragon are going to live in California with us!"
I didn't understand what California was, but my master asked me to be brave and take care of the house while he was gone. I told him with my eyes that I would, and then he was gone. My mistress tried to explain where he was, but all I knew was that he was gone and that he had taken Dragon with him! Finally, after a very long time, she loaded up her car and she and I drove a long, long time. It was spring, and we were in the car much longer than I remember when we had driven from the farm in Michigan to New Hampshire when I was a puppy.
Then, one afternoon, she had stopped at a place that was very dusty and dry, and was taking me for a walk. All of a sudden, I heard my master, whistling my dog song! He had found us again, and I was so excited I thought I would wag my tail off! We were in Nevada, and my master had taken the train over the Sierras to meet us and drive us to our new home. It was a wonderful, new place, with fields, and horses, and my Dragon cat was there to meet me. We were all together again - one family. I went to sleep that night in my new house - I was home!
Living in California was great - my master took me fishing, and only once did I jump into a stream again and had to be rescued. That was the McCloud River, and I really wanted to get out to where my master was fishing, but the current was too swift. On the smaller streams, I usually just stood on the bank and barked at him when I couldn't get to him. When we had to cross a stream, he would carry me in his arms if it was too big, or help me if it was a small one.
Often we went for long hikes up into the mountains where I got to sleep in a tent with him and swim in the lakes. Sometimes he went with other people, and I enjoyed being the only dog and the center of attention. On all these trips to the mountains, he carried a big pack on his back. In the pack, he had a tent, and a stove to cook our meals, and a fluffy sleeping bag that I would lay against when we went to sleep at night.
My favorite spots were the mountain lakes, and he would throw sticks in the water for me to swim after. I would stand in the shallow water and help him watch for fish. Sometimes he would keep a fish or two, and would cook them on his little stove for us. The nights were full of stars, and there were lots of new sounds and smells. Sometimes, especially in the spring, there would still be snow on the trail and ice on parts of the lakes, and at night he would put his down vest over me if I shivered in the cold.
Skiing in California with my master was different from New Hampshire. Here the snow got very, very deep. My legs are only a foot long, and when I would bound off the trail into 14 feet of snow, I would just about disappear! My master would have to come and pull me out, where I was thrashing about. I learned to stay on the trail, or behind him in his ski tracks. It was still fun, though, to get out into the cold air in the mountains - I really love winter!
I learned to like tennis balls - no, "like" is not strong enough. Tennis balls were more of an obsession for me. My people used to buy me chew toys, but I would always eat them. They discovered that I couldn't destroy tennis balls, and so they became my toys. I loved tennis balls! Take me to a tennis court, and I became frantic - all those tennis balls, so little time!
My master played a mean trick on me one day. He had been given a big bag of used tennis balls from a fellow at work, and he dumped them all out at the same time. I couldn't decide which one to chew - I'd pick one up, then another, trying to gather them all together - until finally my mistress said "that's enough - you're driving him crazy!", and my master put most of them away. Not that he really could hide them from me. I could sniff them out, no matter where they were hidden - even in the back of the top shelf of his closet.
After we had lived on Greenstone Road near Placerville for a couple of years, my people bought a house in Rescue. It was a nicer place, with lots of grass and trees behind the house, and lots of deer and wild turkeys. My mistress used to take me on a walk every night up to the end of our street and back, and I got to know all the neighbors, their dogs and their horses. Sometimes if my mistress was slow in taking me for a walk, I would take myself for one. Then my people would get all worried, but I always knew where I was, and I always came back home after taking my walk.
My master built a new deck and put in a hot tub behind our new house. They liked it because you couldn't see any neighbors, but you could see the stars at night. My people liked to sit in the hot water of the hot tub, nearly every night, and we used to play a little game - they would throw the tennis ball across the deck, down the stairs, to the back yard. I would leap off the deck after it, and bring it back to them - but never close enough to let them touch the ball. They would then coax me over, grab the ball and throw it, and I'd be off again. I never tired of our game, although they usually did before I did.
One week my master left on a business trip to the midwest. After he had been gone a couple of days, my mistress came home with a new dog! She introduced him to me - "Buffalo, this is your new brother, Happy. He is going to live with us", she said. "Happy" was a smaller Lhasa Apso than me, and very shy. My mistress explained that he was about 5 years old, and had had several homes all in the city, and none of them had worked out. Happy was now going to live with us, and I was to show him how to be a real country dog - there were so many things that a dog needed to know that he was ignorant of. I was the "alpha dog" and would always be her special boy. I wasn't too sure if I was going to like this arrangement, nor was Dragon. However, after I found out that Happy was ignorant about tennis balls, and that he was going to let me eat first, and that my mistress still loved me and fussed over me, I was OK. My master took a little longer to accept Happy than I did. He didn't know anything about the new dog when he left, and took a little while adjusting to the idea when he came home. After awhile, however, everything was OK. My mistress took Happy and I for our evening walks, and my master took Happy with he and I on backpacking trips. Once Happy learned about walking across little mountain streams and climbing over boulders in the trail, he was OK.
1996 was not a good year. First, Dragon died after a long, painful illness. Then, the veterinarian decided that I had diabetes, and my master started to give me shots of insulin twice every day. While they were trying to get my dose figured out, my people took me to the vet hospital at UC Davis and left me! The strangers there poked and prodded, stuck needles in me, and...it just wasn't home! After a few days, however, they came and got me, and we all settled into dealing with my new situation. I still did everything that I used to do, walks, hikes, fishing, tennis balls - but now my master would follow me around with a cup when I went outside to try and get a urine sample to test for my sugar - how embarrasing for me. It was kind of fun, however, to see him follow me around!
Then I went blind. I have been blind now for more than three years. I can sometimes see the difference between light and dark, but there are cataracts on both eyes, and I've lost my sight. It happened fast, over two weekends, right after I got diabetes. I was angry - I couldn't see, and kept bumping into things, and I wouldn't eat. I learned where the furniture and the steps were, and where my food and water dishes were. My people gently helped me to get around, and talked quietly to me, and loved on me. There was another trip to the UC Davis veterinarian center, but there was nothing that they could do for me - it was something that I would have to live with. There were some accidents - like when I walked into the hot tub down on the deck one night - but I learned to get around. I've always had a good nose, and I relied on it more and more, till I could avoid bumping into things pretty well.
When my brother Happy and I were with our people down at a log cabin they had rented in Yosemite National Park, just before Christmas 1996, my master and I made a wonderful discovery! He put me on a leash, and took Happy and I hiking on the trails there. He and I learned how to use the leash as a guide, and we had a great hike! I've always been his fishing and backpacking buddy, and now we could do it again, even though I couldn't see.
Bigger Dog - New York and Maine 1997-2000
On Thanksgiving Day, 1997, my master loaded us into the Jimmy, strapped the canoe on the top, and we headed off on the long trip from California to Albany, NY. My mistress had left about a month before, and was already at our new home. Both she and my master had transferred to other offices of their work, and we sold the house in California. My master shared some of his Thanksgiving dinner with us at a small town in Nevada, and then every night we stayed at a different motel across the country. He always stayed at places where dogs were welcomed, and both the rooms and the grounds were full of interesting smells from the other dogs who had stayed there before. We had snow to play in crossing the continental divide, and winds to blow our long hair around when we stopped in Nebraska. My master talked and sang to us as we drove along, and made sure that one of us had the back to ourselves and the other the front seat - he made us change our places every time we stopped.
My mistress was so happy to see all of us when we arrived, and we were just glad to be there. The drive was fun, but it was time to settle in to our new home. My master made a fenced area in the back yard, and took me around the house and deck to show me where everything was. He put our dog houses out on the deck, and then put a tarp up to keep the rain off - just like he had done in our pen in the oak trees out behind our place in California. Still, I preferred to be under the deck whenever I could - it was dry there, with thick leaves to burrow into in cold weather, and cool dirt to dig into in the summer.
It was nice to get back into country where we didn't have to drive to get to snow. There were squirrels in my back yard, and lots of birds. I had a new vet to get used to, and we had to adjust my insulin dosage to get it just right when my blood sugar levels started jumping around.
My mistress and master found a little park just down the street from our house, and we walked there every evening after supper. There were woods, and rabbits, and sometimes little kids on the playground, and a tennis court. Once in a while I would find a stray tennis ball - I've got a very sharp nose, did I tell you? - but I would just pick up the ball and carry it around for a little while. I don't chase them anymore, since I'm blind, and I can now take 'em or leave 'em. My master says that I've matured my taste. All in all, I settled into our new home very easily.
My people, Happy and I spent a lot of time in the car the next spring and summer while we all looked for a home to settle into. Finally we found an old farmhouse over in Maine, not too far from where my master's boy Jim and his family lived. My master sat down with me and told me all about it, and we would go there on weekends. There were lots of new smells - this old house has had a lot of people living here, and I soon learned my way around. Paul, our contractor working on the renovation, even put a special light in the new pantry - when I walk into the pantry I can turn it on all by myself! You know, I have always been devoted to my people, but it makes me feel so good that they are just as devoted to me.
This last summer was hot, and my master set up my own special fan so that I could lay in front of it and be cool. Sometime during the summer, I hurt my back. The vet said that I had done something with the discs in my spine, and gave me medicine to help the pain and reduce the swelling. However, it has not gotten any better with time, and he says that it will not improve.
All I know is that my two back legs don't work right, particularly my back left leg. They tremble when I stand up. It is very hard for me to get up and to lay down, and I hurt when I do. Walking is not any easier. We still go on my evening walks, but they are usually shorter now. Sometimes my master takes me on a walk to the park in the afternoon - that is nice, cause all the kids are there. But when we have a long afternoon walk, I have no strength left for our evening walk.
It is just so hard to get around - and I was the mountain dog! There wasn't a trail I couldn't climb, or a rock ledge that I couldn't scramble over! Now, they are just memories - but what wonderful memories they are. My master and I have had a wonderful life, and both my people love me very much.
I am going to miss them, just as much as they have said they are going to miss me. But I am so uncomfortable now, even with the pain pills that the vet has given me. It isn't much fun anymore, and I can't always control myself - and I've always been so proud to be a proper dog with my bowel habits, never having a mistake. Sometimes I just can't help myself, and I feel so bad afterwards. When I am in pain, or just uncomfortable, I have learned to give just one sharp "bark!". That usually gets the attention of my people, and they come to see what I want. I wish I could talk with them better, to tell them how I feel and what I need, but after all these years together we communicate pretty well.
My master has said that he is going to bring me to the vet one last time, and that he will hold me in his arms while they put me to sleep. And I will have no more pain, and will be able to run and chase tennis balls again all day long. I can watch for trout rising out on the water, and can chase jackrabbits across the fields whenever I want.
I wish that my people could be there with me, but they said that they will always treasure me in their hearts, and that will be just the same. My master said that he will bring me up to the farm in Maine, and will bury me out by the big oak in the back yard, so that they can be reminded of their "bigger dog" and think of me often.
I am ready...it is time.
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Last updated March 17 , 2000