We had to put our dog to sleep the other day and after I got home, I wrote this. Partly for you, mostly for me.
Looking back on it, it wasn’t the greatest investment and most would not have done it. A month after my wife and I moved into our new home together and started a new life in a new city and new jobs for both of us, we wanted to get a dog. And I insisted that whatever dog we get, he or she be a rescue dog. There are just too many great dogs needing homes to go and spend a bunch on one in a pet store. Just my opinion.
So we scanned the different rescues and saw this eight-year old Bassett/Beagle named Buddy. He was pretty cute but really fat! When we told people we were going to go look at an eight-year old rescue dog, they were like ‘oh…that’s nice’ and usually followed that up with a “Why would you do that?”
And come to think of it, they had a right to ask that? We went down to see him at a Petco one Saturday and when we got there to look at him, a couple ahead of us in line asked “Where’s the one named Buddy?” and we were like, “Oh hell no!”. It seemed that Buddy was now hot property! Who knew? Maybe he was Scooby-Doo and could talk and stuff?
So they brought him by and truthfully, he could really care less about us (this became a familiar theme) and just wanted to sniff and try to eat all the treats that were on the bottom row at the store. We sat down with him, scratched him, tried to talk to him but there was affection there. Nothing, just a desire to eat and judging by his size, he’d done a lot of that!
He was 80lbs when we saw him (maybe that’s why the other couple didn’t stick around). We talked about the pros and cons in the store, he was overweight (which I pictured was going to be costly down the road), he shed like a Woolley Mammoth and he really didn’t seem to even notice us. I told my wife that we should go and check out some other dogs next week.
As I was walking out, I noticed she didn’t follow me. When I turned around she just stood there and tears started welling up in her eyes. “What if he’s gone next week?” she asked and again, if I’m being truthful- I was ok with that. Besides all the above problems, he wasn’t even a full Bassett like I had dreamed about owning since I saw Smokey and the Bandit.
As any husband knows, sometimes you just have to pick your battles so that was it; we were now proud owners of Buddy. Or Budderick Von Budderson as we assumed his full name to be.
Lest you think that his attitude at the pet store was unusual and once we got him home, he turned into some sort of Lassie clone. Nope, not at all. No licks to the face, no coming over to you for scratches- it was sort of an ambivalent ‘So you’re the ones feeding me now?’ type of attitude.
He had a gnarly indent on the top of his head and when we pressed the lady at the adoption agency for details on Buddy’s previous life, we were sort of horrified. Turns out he had been with one family since he was a pup but lived outside 24/7 and ate nothing but the families scraps they threw outside. Hence the blimp-type figure he had going on. Then she told us that the indent was from a tooth as the family had a Rottweiler that liked to scrap with Budders. Sounds like he lost a lot of those fights and this all started to make sense later.
The family gave him up for adoption because, get this, they landscaped their backyard and had no more room for him. Plus they didn’t want him messing it up. How in the hell a family could do that is amazing to me but we hear that kind of stuff all the time with our other rescue dogs.
And oh was Buddy a scrapper. He reminded me of some kid that lived in the mean streets of Compton and didn’t trust anyone or anything. Buddy was very protective and would pretty much bark and try to maim anyone that walked by us on our twice-daily walks. He was, to put it bluntly, kind of a jerk.
Bred to be ready to fight for his food and for his space, Buddy definitely was a bit of a handful. There was the time he lunged at a dude walking by and bit his ankle, then there was the time he bit me when I tried to take his foot away. And yet another time when he bit my mom when she tried to push him away with her foot. Not big bites, just nips to let you know that he wasn’t to be effed with. He particularly didn’t like when he was eating and you came up from behind him. Flashbacks to the Rottweiler I suppose.
The walks were exciting but they also served a purpose, my wife and I were knocking the weight off of him. From 78 to 64 to 57 to 52- we almost got him to lose 30 pounds! It didn’t seem to help me though; I suppose the pace was too slow.
His skin was so stretched by the weight gain that now, his weiner hung way low with the loose skin. It was like a cows udder and made for hilarious moments when his unit would hit the bottom of the dog door as he went out. Soon he adopted a ‘hop-out’ move that would stay with him till the end. You would too if your junk swung into a doorframe every time you tried to go outside.
Here he is a few months ago with his furry flea that he's getting ready to tear the squeeker out of.
A couple months into having him, his neck locked up and he started yelping bad. He couldn’t move, it was terrible to see. Nothing seemed to work, no pain pills or anything. A couple days later, he’d be fine but we took him to a Neurological Center for the full work-up. After the diagnosis, the MRI’s, the tests- we were out 3K and the result was that he had some bad vertebrae in his neck and back. The doctor looked at me and said surgery was going to be 8K with no guarantees or we could take him home and hope for the best. Thankfully, in the five years we had him there were maybe four or five repeat occurrences but caging him and drugging him up always seemed to work.
It wasn’t easy to own Buddy, no doubt about it. We might have gotten ourselves what they call in the car business a lemon. There was a lot gone wrong with him and he had a rough life.
But you know what? He started getting used to us and started coming around a bit. And I mean, just a bit.
Every morning he would come up to one of us, tail wagging and want scratches and love. It was the one time of the day that he realized that we liked him. After that, it was pretty much ‘thanks for nothing’. He loved to go outside for the walks (maybe in hopes of getting his next victim?) and would immediately get up and come over when we grabbed his leash. He loved chasing birds (never did get one though- I imagine that’s a big regret of his).
Here’s another thing though, he followed whoever was in the house everywhere they went. He wanted to be there, if we were both home he followed me room to room. And if you tried to stop him, he would cry, moan and try to eat his way through whatever barricade you put up. There wasn’t the need for attention, there wasn’t the physical affection but in his own way, in the only way through his shitty upbringing that he learned, he made sure that he was by you. It was a sign that he liked you, he wanted to be by you for protection, maybe for love- I’m not sure.
When I would put him in the back of my van, he would seriously stomach crawl his way like a soldier in ‘Nam underneath the back seat to eventually pop up next to me in the drivers seat on the floor. Then he would work his way to the passenger seat. With all his hair, it sucked to have it everywhere in my van but he was happiest when he was next to me. Rolling down the window, he would stick his head out and absolutely loved it, big ears flapping away.
Years went by and dogs came and went in the Matthes’ house. He would usually try to fight any one of them that was bigger than him and he left the small ones alone. Soon though, as we settled on three others, he found a nice existence with them. To my amazement, he even played with the smaller girl dog we had.
Again though, he had so little affection given to him, the only way he knew how to play was charge at the other dog and sort of chest bump them. Then a little growl and a pretend bite. He didn’t get on his front legs and chase the other dog around, he didn’t like getting chased himself, he just charged, chest-bumped and thankfully, Annie wasn’t scared of him and would fall down.
I like to call this his 'Thinker' pose. Thinking about food I would bet.
The first sign that there was trouble was he stopped eating and this usually didn’t happen to Buddy. He loved food more than anything and especially potato chips- man Buddy loved chips! He started slowing down a bit, his back legs weakening worse and worse. It took him a while to get up the stairs now but there was no way you were going to stop him. He had to be by you, no matter what.
The second sign was he stopped going after his squeaky toys. This guy was the Terminator of squeaky toys. He loved nothing more than ripping through a $7 toy (I don’t sound bitter at all do I?) to get to the squeeker, destroy that and leave the carcass for me to pick up. He wasn’t into them anymore, he wouldn’t chase the toy down and if Annie had one of HIS squeekers, so be it. That was certainly unusual.
Then his stomach ballooned out to the point I had to count the other dogs to make sure he hadn’t eaten one whole boa constrictor-style. Unfortunately that wasn’t it and a trip to the vet confirmed that he had fluid in there from a tumor that was big and in his chest. It was devastating for sure and I knew it was the end for Budders. There was no way we would go through the operation that wasn’t even guaranteed to work and with his age (we think around 13), there wasn’t even any guarantees that he was going to make it through the procedure.
It was a sobering conversation between the vet and I and one I was going to have to have with my wife later that day. It was time, there was no choice. Bringing Buddy back home, he could barely stand up with the poor back legs and the extra weight of the fluid. We would keep him for a day and then be forced to put him to the big fire hydrant in the sky.
The next day, he laid on the floor except for when he had to drink or go outside to pee and I would have to help him up with that. His loyalty was there to the end, wherever I went, he tried desperately to get up and follow me. I was forced to stay downstairs in eyesight of him so that he wouldn’t try to get up.
I know this is crazy, I know this is nuts but at one point, we made eye contact and I could see that it was over and he knew it. There wasn’t much there but a knowing acceptance that his end was near. I stared at him for a good ten seconds, it felt like an hour, and then I went over and lay down beside him.
I don’t want to get all cheesy on you but filling out his cremation forms, choosing an urn while looking at him on the floor was very hard. It’s not something that I advise anyone to have to do. People who do this for humans have much respect from me now, believe me.
Afterwards, I went to the grocery store and bought him a rib-eye. This last meal was gonna be a good one. Despite it being days since he had really eaten, Budders ate that rib-eye up good and fast. Life came back to his eyes, he was ready for this thing and for a brief moment when he kept wanting more, I thought that maybe he was better. I knew better but a guy can hope right?
Later that night I was upstairs and I heard him panting heavily. My wife was in the kitchen and hadn’t noticed that he fought himself to stand up and he was attempting to go up the stairs because that’s where Daddy was and that’s what he did. He went where I went.
His condition wasn’t going to change that.
I got up and just made it the landing of our two sets of stairs when I saw he was halfway up the first set when his legs just gave out from under him and he tumbled down. Luckily, our other dog Fred was behind him and broke his fall! (Well, not really lucky for Fred but hey…). It was a sad sight, Buddy just couldn’t climb the stairs that he had previously done a thousand times before. I stopped what I was doing up there and came back down to make sure he spent his last hours with me.
The next morning, on the way to the vet, he got a McDonalds cheeseburger and some chicken mcnuggets. His appetite mysteriously reappeared for these things, amazing stuff really.
Not long after this, he was in my wife’s arms and was gone. It was painless to him but very painful to us. If you’re not a dog person, you don’t get it and that’s ok. We have no kids and no plans to have any-it’s these shaggy four leggers for us.
We gave the dog that had a rough beginning a nice ending to his life, it was five years of bliss for him. We joked that he had hit the lottery but didn’t seem to appreciate it all the time. But we know he couldn’t help it, the scars from the beginning were there his whole life. He never licked our faces, he never needed the love shown to him but he showed his loyalty to us each and every day we had him. He wanted to be by us, and I think that was his move-his way of showing that he liked us.
The dog that we never should have adopted, that no one should have, was there for us from the start of my wife and I’s new life.
And now he’s gone.
RIP Buddy Matthes- hope we did you right while you were here.