A week ago I wrote a column about planning for your pets in an estate plan, so they are taken care of when you are gone. What I didn’t consider, and what was explained to me with the story of Dave Buttke and his dog Buddy, was that sometimes our pets make plans for us to be taken care of when they’re no longer here for us.
Dave can still recall fondly the first time he met Buddy. He was doing some work on his sister’s home in Showlow and could hear her neighbor’s dog barking. He went over and said hello to the friendly little pup, a small lab/retriever mix who had been rescued from the pound, who seemed lonely in his makeshift compartment outside.
When Dave went back to work the dog hopped out of his fenced area and followed him. Dave tried to put him back but it happened a few more times before Dave could convince the dog to stay. Once the work was through Dave made a comment to his sister that if her neighbors ever decided they didn’t want that dog, he’d be happy to take it.
Months later, around Christmas time, Dave was preparing again to visit his sister and he admits he was looking forward to seeing her neighbor’s sweet dog. Once he got there he discovered the neighbors had had a new baby and no longer felt they could take care of the dog, so Dave’s sister had arranged for him to take him home.
As Dave tells the story, the two spent the next 16 years together.
The early portion of those 16 years was spent living in Tucson. At the time Dave lived in a neighborhood that had a tennis court and he soon discovered that Buddy had a deep love for hunting down tennis balls. Each day as they went for a walk if Buddy spotted a loose tennis ball he would immediately pick it up and then pull Dave toward home where he could safely store it. As soon as they were home Buddy would drop the ball and never play with it.
Occasionally Buddy would even find balls that couldn’t be seen with the naked eye. If he even so much as smelled a tennis ball he’d stop and dig it out from its hiding place. The tradition continued when Dave moved to his home in Ahwatukee Foothills and always it was the same. Once the ball was in his possession it was time to go home, but once the ball was safe at home, Buddy didn’t care to play with it.
It was a silly little habit but, sensing the balls were somehow important to Buddy, Dave would pick them up and place them in a basket along with his other toys.
Eventually Buddy began to age and one day in January a trip to the vet was his last. Now Dave has a basket with 70 tennis balls sitting in his living room that reminds him each day of his good friend Buddy. He says he can’t tell what Buddy was thinking when he collected the balls but it sure has been nice for him to see that basket of fuzzy little memories.
“I think it’s nice that I’ve got some nice memories,” Dave said. “It helps to dispel some of the sadness of not having him around.”
For any other owners whose pets have some strange behaviors, Dave suggests honoring it and enjoying it. You never know what comfort it may be later on—but maybe your pet knows best.
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