The Showcase Magazine - Articles

Loving Buddy

By Monica Giglio

In 2015 I began fostering dogs and by December of that year, I had adopted Buddy as my own. He quickly became my constant companion on walks near the ocean, sunrises and moonrises at Washington Rock Park, weekend trips to Maryland and D.C., and quick car rides to capture photos as the sun sunk below the horizon. Some of you may remember Facebook videos of Buddy chasing butterflies, retrieving sticks in local ponds, or running after frisbees in green pastures. He even made an appearance in my first published book, Pieces, Poems, and Prose. A fellow dog owner once inquired about him at the park and learned he was a rescue dog. “Who rescued who?” she asked as we parted company, and I immediately got choked up. At that moment I understood his role in rescuing me from the deepest heartache I had ever known. Buddy's mild manner, affectionate but quiet disposition, and soulful loving ways brought several of my friends a measure of healing as he had done for me, and they shared a connection to him.

As winter approached we did less hiking, but I’d toss him his frisbees indoors and throw tennis balls for him to retrieve. Near the end of December he seemed more anxious when I had to leave him home alone, begging me with his beautiful eyes to please not go. Sometimes, he didn’t respond to the sound of my car in the driveway or the jingle of my keys in the door and run jumping up and down for me cross the threshold. Sometimes he wasn’t roused ‘till I came inside shut the door behind me with a loud thud, and wondered if he was losing his hearing, but then he always came running, leaping, and ready to greet meet and play. He was joyous, jumping and jubilant when I returned home after midnight New Year’s Eve.

But on New Year’s Day, he was shaking, dry heaving and groaning in pain every time he moved. I checked for signs of a distended belly, fever, or tenderness; all negative. His input and output were normal, helping himself to water until 2pm. These good signs sustained my hope that his distress would soon pass. Several times he found his way to a dark empty bedroom and tried to get comfortable. I laid next to him on the floor of the kitchen, the living room, and three bedrooms that day. By evening he refused all food and drink, and offering him anything made him gag.

By nighttime he had my full attention as he laid with his head on my lap for hours on the couch. He was exhausted, his breathing was shallow and his heartbeat was faint. His eyes were barely open. I tried calling my vet and the emergency clinic on the holiday, but when I couldn’t get through on my first tries, I turned my undivided attention back to my sweet pet. He’d been fine the previous day and his sudden condition frightened me. I began to think that any breath might be his last, and I texted my brother “I think Buddy's dying in my lap.”

When the sun rose on Tuesday, he just laid there with his eyes open not wanting to move. I bottle fed him some drops of water and he coughed lightly but painfully. I took him to the vet where he remained all day for testing. They confirmed his condition was fatal. A large cancerous mass on his heart had hemorrhaged, making him weak from sudden internal bleeding. The fluid accumulating in his chest cavity made every breath an effort. I brought him home at 10pm determined to give him love, focused attention and hospice care for as many days as he had left.

For days we cuddled in the warmth of my home while the bomb-cyclone snow storm descended on Warren. I never took my eyes off him and by Friday he was gone. Someone told me “Being there in his presence till the end takes a lot of courage as a pet owner.” I didn’t think of it as courage, I just knew I was where I was supposed to be.

Knowing you are where you are supposed to be, even sad circumstances are powerful. It brings a sense of peace and purpose. As snow tumbled down and outside world turned white, I knew I was supposed to be at Buddy’s side and it has brought lasting comfort in my grief. Life is full of bombs and cyclones, some big and some small. When they hit, my hope is that every reader will have the gift of knowing where you are supposed to be too and, more importantly, can be there.