Since they were old enough to talk, our children had pleaded for a dog. Jeanne and I resisted. The fact our house on Chicago’s north side had a yard the size of a large postage-stamp, provided a convenient excuse:
“It wouldn’t be fair to the dog if he couldn’t run around a yard.”
When I got a promotion at work, we had to move to Springfield, where we bought a house with a backyard for which a mower would be required.
We were out of excuses.
The need for a low-dander dog (allergies) led us to choose a Bichon-Poodle. We located one in a pet shop in Peoria.
The kids picked the puppy they wanted while I was at work. I got to bring him home and took responsibility for naming him. In homage to Buster Keaton, the puppy became Buster and he was a joy from Day One.
He loved to chase the kids. They loved to chase him. It was sometimes hard to tell who was chasing who.
Buster quickly became a cherished member of our family, something Jeanne and I didn’t expect.
Buster was silly, goofy and resilient.
He was mauled by an akita outside our house a few months after coming to live with us. He sustained serious injuries, but recovered.
A few years after his arrival, he started losing his eyesight. Buster learned to cope with total blindness.
Since he couldn’t see where he was going, he would want to be carried through unfamiliar areas. We got used to that and rationalized that walking Buster helped us increase our upper body strength.
Buster’s favorite thing was just being on the couch with his family.
From the beginning, Buster understood the person called “Mom” seemed to know where the food was kept. Through the years he was always at her side.
When the kids moved on to college, Buster remained.
As empty nesters, we relocated to a condo in Chicago. Buster adjusted to the new surroundings. At his age, he no longer needed a big yard anyway.
Things seemed pretty good until just a few weeks ago, when he started having breathing problems. As it turned out, Buster’s lungs were failing.
The time between the terminal diagnosis and Buster’s final sleep was just a few hours. It was unfair, but only to us. Buster didn’t deserve to suffer. He left us on his 14th birthday.
Buster’s gone. Our hearts are so sad.
We will recover, but a family only gets one “first dog.”
We will never forget you, Buster. Thank you for 14 sweet, hilarious years.
You were a good boy.