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Our Beloved Beagle, Buster - 04/23/13

It was a sunny, September morning, the type of day where the crispness of fall creeps in and provides a little relief from the suffocating summer heat. I was sitting in my car on the driveway with the door open, enjoying the beautiful weather and listening to the tail end of the morning news on the radio. Suddenly, a light brown blob flew across my lap and landed in the passenger's seat. I looked over and saw a bright-eyed beagle with his tongue hanging out.

"What in the world are you doing, little guy, and where do you belong?" I inquired. He just stared back at me, as if he knew exactly what he was doing and where he belonged. I decided to bring him inside and give him some water. Our chow-shepherd mix, Duncan, always loves company and playing with other pups. After they smelled each other and made friends, I checked to see if this dog had a collar, tags or any type of identification. No ID! He looked happy and healthy but once I got him inside I detected a certain unmistakable odor. He'd been sprayed by a skunk! Ugh. I then thought it was high time to send this bold beagle on his merry way back home. So, I let him out our garage door and soon heard that familiar beagle bay belting across the greenbelt behind our house. He was obviously chasing deer and showing them who was boss! I went about my morning tasks and was ready to get back in the car and run errands. But, when I opened the kitchen door to the garage there was the beagle panting and looking up at me. "Okay, you win. Come on inside and I will try to figure out how to find your home. First, I'm giving you a bath because you are stinking up the whole house!" He immediately hopped up on the couch as if to say, "Lady, this IS my home can't you tell?"

We had actually been considering a second dog at the time. It was a sad year in our family. It was 2007 and my ex-husband, my daughter Carly's dad, had passed away unexpectedly in April. She was still grieving. Just before Labor Day that same year, the dog she had at her dad's house, a beloved border collie named Murphy, who had come to live with us also died. It was another heartbreaking loss.

The first night the Beagle (as we called him until we learned his name) spent the night at our house, there was a thunderstorm and it terrified him. He scratched and scratched at Carly's door until she let him in and he jumped in bed and hid under her covers. He slept the rest of the night cuddled up next to her. I knew she was getting attached but I also knew he probably had another home. After putting flyers up all over the neighborhood, we found out the beagle was being fostered by a couple down the street. We also learned his name was Buster. He was ten years old and was looking for a new home because he belonged to a family with toddlers who didn't have the time or patience for him, anymore. When his foster parents found out we'd already grown attached to Buster, they asked if we wanted to keep him. And the rest is history.

Buster was part of our family for six wonderful years. He was the quirkiest, most mischievous dog, I've ever known. He made us laugh at his silliness every single day. He relished rolling on his backside across the grass with his belly swaying back and forth and his ears flopping from side to side. He loved breaking into a trot on his walks and biting his leash. He had countless trash digging adventures despite my best efforts to keep the garbage closed. He'd find a way to pry open lids and drag out embarrassing items that we would later find strewn all over our living room (just in time for company to arrive). He also had a strange penchant for underwear yes underwear and would discover ways to get into the dirty clothes and eat the crotches of the finest Victoria Secret panties. He never chose the cheap Target varieties. I know...gross.

He and Duncan were always great pals. They would rough-house, play tug of war, fight over food and sleep side by side. They were a team. Two goofball, great dogs that always seemed to depend on each other.

Despite his destructive nature Buster was a lovable little guy who enjoyed nothing more than snuggling up against his favorite humans, jumping up on every seating surface in the house to find his most comfortable sleeping position (ignoring his own dog bed) and eating everything in sight. That dog loved food! The last few years of his life we thought he was virtually deaf. He never heard us calling his name to go outside. But, somehow, if we opened the refrigerator door or popped open the dog treats, those floppy ears miraculously worked again. Buster would come barreling into the kitchen, cocking his head and begging for a bite.

Every morning, Buster followed my husband, Thad, to the dining room for breakfast and sat by his feet until he got a little nibble of whatever Thad was eating. They were morning buddies ready for the day to begin. Duncan and I always preferred sleeping a little later and taking a slower approach to starting the morning.

As we began adjusting to our empty nest years, we gradually grew even closer to our dogs our boys. When your kids are off at college, your dogs aren't substitutes but you sure are glad they are there to share your home and your heart.

Buster was epileptic, but he bounced back from so many bad episodes that we told ourselves he would live forever. Since December, his seizures were coming more frequently. Medication helped a little, but we knew this was a bad sign.

On a recent Saturday, he just kept having seizure after seizure and medication wasnt working to stop them. He ended up late Saturday night in the Animal Emergency Hospital. His eyesight had failed and it was obvious to us the seizures were finally too much for his little body. We chose to have him put to sleep on Sunday morning while he was still sedated. We were able to kiss him and love on him before he died. His brother, Duncan, even licked him on the snout. We cried buckets of tears but we knew, deep down in our souls, it was time to say goodbye. He lived to the ripe old age of 16 more than 110 in people years.

Buster jumped into our lives when we needed him most. I've always wondered if divine intervention delivered him to my car that September morning just a few days after another dog we loved died. He was a bright spot in a somewhat dark period for our family. I suppose we will never really know if he was Heaven sent. But I DO know we will always miss that stubborn, stinky, wacky and wonderful Beagle and are so very grateful he chose us to be his forever family.

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