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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Buff - the three legged wonder dog

I don't have any pictures of Buff,
but this comes close
The terror of the neighborhood dogs. The dog with the 'tude. And Buff had 'tude to spare. He was an unlikely hero.
You wouldn't know it to look at him. He was a funny looking dog. A corgi, terrier, dachshund mix he was the runt of the litter, and as a puppy he'd had to push his way in to eat. He had monster ears, a narrow face and a long body. In color he was kind of dun brown (thus the name). And he didn't actually have three legs, he had all four, but due to a birth defect he had a malformed back hip so he always carried that leg tucked up against his body. Until he needed to turn then he'd stick those toes down and run a circle around it. He could do a 180 at speed.
Buff was a character, a wanderer. People swore he could read street lights, that he would wait until the light was green to cross the street. They picked him up to give him a ride home. If he knew them, he'd hop right in.
The bane of my father's existence, he was an escape artist. According to my father (German by extraction, a Gemini, and a mechanical engineer, he gave a new meaning to anal-retentive) dogs were supposed to stay in the yard. (There was also a law about stray dogs, we'll get back to that later.) Buff, however, would not be caged. He was born to be free.
My father fenced in the yard. Buff still got out. For every hole my father filled, Buff dug another, or he squeezed through the gap between the gate and the fence. Dad filled it. Buff climbed the fence. True story.
So when the animal control man showed up, no one was surprised. Except the animal control man, when - after one look at the citation - my father said he would fight the charge.
He wasn't the only one whose eyebrows were raised. The judge was more than a little startled. Until it came down to the description of the dog in question. All the ticket said was - a small brown dog. My father asked the animal control man how many small brown dogs there were. (Remember - he was an anal-retentive German mechanical engineer, so he knew!) He then asked whether the person making the complaint had mentioned any other distinguishing features. The answer was no. Dad put Buff down. That was all it took, the judge threw out the case.
Other dogs, the ones who thought they were tough, quickly learned better. Buff was quick. He was the terror of the neighborhood bullies, and absolutely unafraid. He'd come trotting home with tattered ears and a big doggy grin, so proud of himself!
One night my father let Buff out to do his business in the yard and there was this hullabaloo in the ivy that covered the back of the house. Dad opened the door, and this monster rat shot in, with Buff in hot pursuit. Both rat and dog scrambled up and over the couch - with my mother in it - then back outside. There was a horrific amount of snarling and barking, and suddenly there was silence. Buff appeared, covered in blood. My mother burst into tears and tenderly washed him off in the sink. There wasn't a mark on him.
A wanderer, he led me on many an adventure, including to a farm run by an elderly man. He was lean and spare, but had a kind face, seamed with wrinkles, and thinning hair. The house smelled of age, but was well cared for. He clearly knew Buff, leaning down to ruffle his ears. And Buff knew him. He was also lonely. His wife had passed and his children were grown, so having an eight-year-old come to visit wasn't an imposition. He let me and Buff play in his barn, and taught me how to hoe, to pick beans, and tried to teach me to grow plants. (I still kill more than I grow.) Then one day he was gone. That one summer, though, had been special.
I said that Buff was an unlikely hero. He was a tough dog, and brave. He was.
New people had moved into the neighborhood. No one ever saw them, but it quickly became obvious that they were different. The lawn was unmowed, except for where the doghouses were. Circles had been made in the thin grass by the big, vicious, mixed breed dogs - they were chained too close, with no room to run. You learned quickly to walk on the other side of the street.
Then one day one of the dogs got loose.
My mother was out working in the yard. She was hugely pregnant with my brother, who was due in a couple of weeks.
The strange dog charged across the yard, straight at my mother. She tried to run toward the house, but she couldn't move quickly. Only her basket with the tools she'd been using in the yard kept the dog off her. Our neighbor, no spring chicken herself, came running out of the house with a broom.
Buff was faster, putting himself between my mother and the bigger dog. He was eight years old, then, and slower, but it didn't stop him. He bought my mother time to reach the house as the neighbor whacked the dog with a broom to keep him from trying to get around Buff, even as Buff attacked to drive the dog off.
He died that day, as he had lived, fighting, feisty, and brave.