A few years ago a good friend gave me a shelter dog. He was a rare mix of many breeds, most likely a long haired Dachshund and Pekinese. He conveniently came with a name (Buddy), lots of ticks and a nonfunctioning flea collar. My friend told me that if he didn't take him they were going to euthanize Buddy by the end of the day! Yeah, I bet they tell that to all the customers. Anyway, Buddy came home to me.
Buddy was an unknown entity and there was a distinct look in his eye that some would call crazy. What we soon found out was that he hated other dogs and they instantly hated him. Buddy was like the guy on the train without deodorant; instantly recognizable and a definite mood changer. Buddy was that guy for the canine set.
One day a co-worker, after hearing about the trial and tribulations of my life with Buddy, offered me a Christmas Day bet. He said that Buddy would be dead by Christmas day. I was insulted that he would think that my boy Buddy would perish through some fault of my own. He told me not to read into the bet just take it or leave it. I took it and the days and months ticked away.
On Christmas morning, I packed up the car and Buddy and headed to my mother's house. Only ten minutes into the ride, Buddy started signaling that he needed to go to the bathroom. Since it was early Christmas morning and no one was around. I pulled over onto a vacant lot under a set of elevated railroad tracks. I got out of the car looked around to make sure that there were no other dogs in sight. I opened the back door and told Buddy to get out and do his business. It was at that minute that I looked up and on the far side of the vacant lot, there stood a wiry old black dog. My reflex was to grab Buddy and scoop him up and back into the car, but he was way too fast for me, his sleek long body and short legs, were turbo charged when he caught a hint of another dog. He took off like a bolt of lightning and the other dog sensing danger ran toward the railroad tracks. I flew into a panic and ran after Buddy, screaming, come back, come back. The wiry old black dog ran on to the railroad tracks and Buddy was right behind, barking incessantly. I tried to keep up but I petered out and I could no longer see either dog and Buddy’s bark grew faint and finally went silent.
I felt defeated and I didn’t know what to do. I turned back and headed to my car. All the doors were ajar and the engine was running, Christmas music blared from the radio, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” I climbed into the driver’s seat and put my head in my hands. What a terrible Christmas! I lost my dog and I lost the 50 dollar Christmas bet! I had given Buddy up for dead; it was my punishment for taking the bet.
I began to think back to my childhood when my family traveled cross country in 1967. We drove from Philadelphia to San Francisco California with our very old Fox Terrier Tiny. One day we pulled over and let her out near a wooded area when she saw a rabbit and took off after it. My sister’s and I prayed to St. Anthony the patron saint of lost causes and to our delight, after several hours, waiting, Tiny returned to us. I thought if it worked before, it might work again. So, I folded my hands in front of my face and prayed to St. Anthony to return Buddy to me on that Christmas morning. I told St. Anthony that it was never about the 50 dollar bet, it was about the love I had for my dog. It was only a few minutes after I ended my prayer that I looked up toward the railroad tracks and I saw a tiny dog running hard and at full speed toward the car. I jumped out of the front seat and ran toward him as fast as my legs would carry me. I struggled up the steep incline toward the tracks and yelled, come on boy, come on Buddy! Let’s get back on the road to Grandma’s house. I scooped up his 26 pounds of fur and fury and tucked him in the back seat among all the wrapped presents. I was ecstatic and thankful that St. Anthony once again had answered my prayer.
Well, I never shared that story with my friend, I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of knowing that he almost won a bet that I should have never taken. Buddy with all his imperfections lived to a ripe old age of 18. I thought it only right to mark his grave with a flat stone inscribed with the following sentiment. “A long time ago a good friend gave me a dog, and his name was Buddy.” Merry Christmas Everyone.