Friends for ages are feeling their ages

05/24/2014 4:13 PM

06/03/2014 10:17 AM

Buddy, the rescued beagle, is 13 years old now and showing his age.

But aren’t we all?

Adopted from a shelter, he joined our household with a mission — to provide companionship for Cyrus, the last in my line of Brittany bird dogs, who was so desolate after the passing of his sire that he could not bear to be alone in the yard or out of sight of one of us.

And Buddy has discharged his duties admirably. More than just being a friend, he’s been a mentor. By example, he has shared with Cyrus the pleasure of sleeping on the bed. Our bed.

A cat on the bed is one thing. That is the orange tabby Mickey’s favorite place, and we’re pleased to have him there. A 30- or 35-pound beagle is tolerable. But a 70-pound hunting dog is another matter.

And all three of them there together made our sleeping a tricky prospect. Sadly, that was a problem in the past.

Cyrus has gone to lie with his pack mates under stacks of stones in a fencerow at the farm — a favorite nesting place for quail. And now it’s Buddy’s turn to be the lonely one.

He no longer can manage the leap onto the bed. We bought for him a carpeted two-step contraption to make that possible. He looked at it briefly, his lip curled, and he refused to use it.

For company he depends on the cats, of which we have no shortage. Often he’s found lying side by side with one of them. It’s almost as if they don’t recognize they’re of different species. Or at any rate don’t care.

The pair of beagles I had many years ago were devoted harriers. So it’s a mercy our menagerie does not include rabbits. Even at Buddy’s age, the temptation might be too much for him.

Until we married, my wife, Katie, had never lived with dogs.

Other than the years I spent away in college and in the Army, I’d never lived without one.

The highlight of Buddy’s days are those sweet springtime afternoons when she takes him for a walk around a block or two. Just the sound of her opening the door of the hall closet, where his leash is kept, fills him with such excitement you’d almost imagine he was a pup again.

Those outings are his one opportunity to socialize with creatures of his kind, also with their masters or mistresses in tow. And with very few exceptions the encounters are congenial.

The rest of the time he mostly eats and sleeps. Once in a while, when napping, he emits a little yelp. It’s not because of any pain, I think, but rather because of some memory that has come to him in a dream.

The television is in an upstairs bedroom. After dinner, his favorite place is directly under the chair where I sit to watch a ballgame, the news or some other program.

One recent evening, though, I noticed him lying on the floor beside the bed, looking up with longing at the place that used to be his regular perch.

I knew what he was thinking then. And I knew just what he was feeling.

Because it’s what I’ve thought and felt myself when, driving past a neighborhood park, I happen to see a group of young fellows running, jumping and throwing a ball — never considering, or even imagining, the difference that tomorrow will surely bring.

For more of C.W. Gusewelle, go to gusewelle.kansascity.com.

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