We lost a treasured member of our family yesterday.
More than 13 years ago, I was reluctant to get a new puppy. We’d had a great dog - a three-legged Golden Retriever mix named Kipling - for a long time, and I just couldn’t imagine replacing her. Mrs. Content Guy and our kids were insistent, though, so I presented them with what I figured would be a deal breaker. We could get a puppy, I said, as long as I got to name it.
Suddenly, we had a puppy, a Yellow Lab who was impossibly cute. I named her Buffett.
For the past 13-plus years, whenever I’d sit down at the desk or kitchen counter to write, Buffett would sort of wrap herself around my feet and try to get as close to me as she could. Whenever I’d come home from a trip, I could always count on the fact that Buffett would be the member of the family who would be happiest to see me. I don’t think it was just that I was a soft touch for a cookie or some other forbidden food that I’d sneak her when nobody was looking, though that probably helped. We just … connected.
In the morning, when we’d go out to get the New York Times that had been delivered to our driveway, it was always one of her great pleasures to wrestle it off the ground and carry it into the house. I can’t quite remember teaching her to do that, but she was good at it; the paper sometimes would end up having a few bite marks, but who could be mad at her.
Buffett also had this tail that was like a lethal weapon - big and strong and, because she almost always was happy, constantly wagging.
Over the past year or so, Buffett started to slow down a bit. Some mornings, she couldn’t quite get the paper all the way into the house. She slept more, but always close to me when I was writing. And then, during the past six months, she’d often need to get up at 3 or 4 in the morning to go outside, and so I started sleeping downstairs on the couch so I’d be near her and aware of when she needed to go outside. She still had a great appetite, though, so until she was put on a restricted diet I started making her an egg every morning. She seemed to appreciate it.
It wasn’t just me, of course. Everybody else in the house paid special attention to Buffett as she went into an inevitable but sad decline. Especially my daughter, Allison, who’d hang with her in front of the fireplace and put dog beds in every room in the downstairs of our house to make sure that Buffett always could find a place to be comfortable.
One of the things that the vet told us was that as Buffett went into physical decline, she’d probably disconnect from us and be less social; it would be her way of telling us that it was time. But that never happened. Even when she couldn’t move, Buffett continued to be the most loving dog imaginable, struggling to be as close to us as she could whenever she could. It was almost as if she were consoling us, offering us every last bit of love that she had.
I won’t go into the details here - mostly because I’ll start to cry on my laptop - but yesterday we came to the end. It was time. I was away at a speaking engagement, but my wife, son and daughter took Buffett to the vet, along with one of her beds and favorite pillow, and said a tearful goodbye as Buffett peacefully left the world she’d made so much better for all of us.
I’m back at home now. Drove all night from Buffalo, because I needed to be here. The house seems empty, and Buffett wasn’t there to greet me. I’m actually going to miss taking her for 4 am walks. I’m going to hate bringing in the Times by myself. I’m going to miss feeling her body wrapped around my feet as I write.
I look at one of Buffett’s beds, just across from my desk, and see the indent of her body still there.
I guess I am going to cry on my laptop after all.