Buddy, the ancient beagle, has had a renaissance.
He joined our family 10 years or so ago, after the passing of my wonderful bird dog Rufus; Rufus’ two sons, Pete and Bear; and his grandson, Cyrus.
For the first time in 50 years we found ourselves without a single canine in the house. But I had an immediate remedy for that emergency.
The humane shelter Wayside Waifs is a major player in the citywide effort to reduce the number of homeless, neglected, hungry or abandoned companion animals in our community.
The dogs and cats delivered from dreadful circumstances and placed by Wayside Waifs in caring homes total in the many hundreds every year.
So I knew that among the healthy, well-fed and sociable candidates awaiting their chance in the shelter’s kennel area, there surely would be one intended especially for us.
My hopeful pass down the first several rows of kennels didn’t yield a prospect.
Some dogs were of a size that, no matter how agreeable their temperament, would be sure to alarm the established cats of our household.
Others had voices of sufficient authority to all but guarantee an end to any future hope of sleeping.
But then, just as I reached the last kennel in the final row, the future spoke to me. Not in a bark or a howl, but in a croak. The speaker — as it turned out — had kennel cough.
I turned his way, our eyes met and the deal was done.
On a frozen morning 55 years ago, when I was spending a solitary winter in the Ozark woods, working at learning the craft of writing, two beagle pups, from a litter orphaned by their mother’s death on a country road, found their way to my cabin door.
They became my friends and companions, and we survived the bitter season on meals of rabbit and squirrel. From that time on, beagles have occupied a special place in my memory. So, of course, the one in that pen at Wayside Waifs came home with me.
He’d been given up for adoption, not due to any fault of his but because a member of the household had developed an allergy. That’s been at least 10 years ago, and as I recall he was 9 at the time.
Which means he’s 19 now — a legitimate senior — an important part of the family but definitely showing his age. His latest problem has been of most concern.
First we noticed a modest swelling in his stomach area. Over time the distension grew somewhat larger. Then alarmingly larger.
He exhibited no pain. But it became clear that the deformity was interfering with his ability to walk up the three steps indoors from the fenced yard, to navigate comfortably — or even to rest in his favorite facedown position.
Concerned that, if neglected, the condition might be life-threatening, we took Buddy to his friend and ours, the veterinarian who has cared for him through all his years with us. The diagnosis was a tumor — large but not malignant — which was found on removal to weigh 2.5 pounds.
The surgery was uneventful, but the results were dramatic.
Within only days the patient was on his feet and getting around, displaying no sign of discomfort. His longtime evening habit had been to come up two flights of stairs to join us in the bedroom as we read or watched television.
But for many weeks the effort had been beyond him.
Then on a recent evening, my wife looked up from her book and said, with evident surprise and pleasure, “See who’s here!”
It was himself, sprawled happily on what had always been his favorite rug for napping.
And from that moment on, Buddy has gone wherever it pleased him — indoors or out, upstairs or down — giving no indication whatever that he was the handiwork of a gifted surgeon.
If the need occurs, I would wish for anyone an outcome that spectacular.