As irreplaceable as dogs are — and Charlie Powell considered his childhood dog, Poochie, just that — the best thing to do when you lose one is to fairly quickly get another.
Powell, senior public-information officer for Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine in Pullman, learned that lesson the hard way, letting 30 dogless years elapse after Poochie died.
In a haunting, inspiring and pretty darned wise essay in last week’s Seattle Times, Powell told the story of Poochie, the Boston terrier who was his first dog.
“My mother often said she thought I would pet his head bald with my right hand while sucking a bottle held in my left. She also said Poochie had no problem with that.”
After accompanying Powell through much of his childhood, the day came that Poochie, achy and elderly, had to be put down. Powell recalls the trip to the vet, and going with his father to bury Poochie near Lake Mead in Nevada.
Traumatic as that might have been for a 10-year-old, it got worse. When he and his father, on a fishing trip, later returned to the site where they’d laid Poochie to rest, they found the grave desecrated.
“There was trash around his grave where people had partied. There was a blackened fire ring where we buried him with the burned hinges and the hasp laying there. When I looked up, I saw his partially charred body hung by the neck from a limb with the wire we used to close the box…”
The impact of that, somewhat understandably, would last 30 years.
“For me, the memory of what happened was more like a featureless wall that one is unable to scale. I think I coped with this mainly by becoming ambivalent to dogs — all dogs.”
His family got other dogs, he writes, “but I was never close to any of them. I just never wanted to be that close to a dog again.” Even while working at Washington State’s College of Veterinary Medicine, and for the Washington State Veterinary Medical Association, he had no desire — at least not that he was aware of – to have a dog of his own.
Then one day his wife went to a dog show, and — though he’d never mentioned Poochie to her — fell in love with Boston terriers, to the point she ordered one from a breeder, and asked her husband to pick up the dog, a brindle-colored male named ”Buster.”
“My mind raced. I fretted all week. How could I get another dog? What if his fate turned out to be worse than Poochie’s? Did my wife expect me to “replace” Poochie? Of course that was unfair to her; she knew nothing of Poochie. So I decided I needed to keep the wall up for the time being.”
We all know how good dogs are at knocking such walls down, and that’s what Buster did.
“Buster blossomed into a well-mannered young man that wormed his velvety head into my heart.
“Part of what I had avoided since Poochie died was eye contact with other dogs. But just try and avoid eye contact with a Boston terrier in your house, those two orbs that stick out on the corners of a cube-shaped head. It’s impossible.”
Powell would go on to feature Buster regularly in vet school publications, and he once brought him along to a Washington State Veterinary Medical Association meeting, where “he sat in the conference room next to me wearing his WSU bow tie as if he were deliberating.”
As Powell notes Buster wasn’t Poochie — and it would be wrong to have expected him to be. When one dog dies, and you get another, the new one isn’t a replacement, and isn’t just a painkiller. He or she is unique — another chance to enjoy the magic of the species, another chance, for a dog lover, for love.
“Between Poochie and Buster was a long time to stay silent and deny myself the joy of another dog,” Powell wrote. “With Buster’s passing, I realized that I had shortchanged myself for a long time for no good reason. The very thing I thought I was protecting myself from — life with another dog — turned out to be the best thing for me.”
(Editor’s note: After the death of Buster, Powell adopted another Boston terrier, this one a blind and deaf 13-year-old rescue. Her name is CeCe.)
(Photos: Poochie and Powell in 1961, courtesy of Charlie Powell; Buster in a vet school post card, by Henry Moore Jr. / BCU/WSU)
Posted by jwoestendiek November 12th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, boston terriers, buster, charlie powell, coping, death, dog, dogless, doglessness, dogs, grief, mourning, new dog, pets, poochie, replacement, school, veterinary, void, walls, washington state university
A 7-year-old mutt who went missing in mid-November from his home in Colorado was reunited with his owner yesterday after being found in Salinas, Calif. — about 1,200 miles away.
Nobody knows where Buster Brown was for the past six months, or how he made it from Boulder to Salinas, but that’s all water under the bridge, or pavement under the paws, as the case may be.
Buster and his owner, Samantha Squires, reunited at Denver International Airport Friday.
“I never gave up on him and I thought about him every day,” she said as she awaited his arrival. “It wouldn’t be surprising to me that he was looking for us the whole time.”
Buster, who Squires rescued as a puppy, vanished from her back yard on Nov. 19 while she was out jogging, according to the Daily Camera.
Squires said she feared the worst – that a mountain lion might have attacked Buster. Three weeks ago, she adopted a new dog.
Meanwhile in Salinas, Peter Ochoa noticed a strange dog sitting on his front porch.
“He laid there staring at me like, ‘Are you going to take me in?’”
Ochoa approached Buster Brown, told him to sit, and then shook his paw. Ochoa’s family gave Buster some water and called animal control, and volunteered to take Buster in if a new home couldn’t be found for him.
Staff at the Salinas Animal Shelter found a microchip in Buster Brown, but the numbers they called were no longer in service. Instead the shelter sent a certified letter to the last known address associated with the microchip.
That letter ended up at Squires’ current address. She called the shelter and confirmed they had Buster, who had somehow gained 13 pounds during his mysterious absence.
Squires was trying to arrange transportation home for Buster when Frontier Air Lines offered to fly him for free.
Squires suspects Buster probably got a ride to California — otherwise, she calculated, he would have had to travel about seven miles a day.
“My guess is he lived in a couple of homes and was a stray toward the end,” Squires said. “People would take care of him — he’s just a doggy you want to love.”
Posted by jwoestendiek June 6th, 2011 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: 1200 miles, animal welfare, animals, beagle, boulder, buster, buster brown, california, colorado, denver, dog, dogs, frontier, home, microchip, missing, mutt, pets, pit bull, recovered, retriever, reunion, reunited, salinas, samantha squires, shelter, stray, wanderer
“Hey That’s MY Dog!” a photo exhibit featuring more than 150 South Baltimore dogs — on display until May 10 — got off to an amazing start last night at Captain Larry’s.
Dog lovers packed the joint. Close to 50 of them took home photos of their dogs. And I only ripped off one customer.
Before we get to that, allow me to point out that proceeds from the exhibit go to Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Shelter (BARCS), and to issue special thanks to two Philadelphia friends — Margaret Grace, who helped me put the exhibit up, and Don Groff, who took the accompanying photographs
Thanks as well to Adam and his singing dog Sierra. While there were too many distractions for Sierra to focus on her singing, she howled a bit, and her presence, and Adam’s sidewalk saxophone playing, were appreciated.
The idea behind the exhibit — the culmination of about two year’s worth of my dog photo-taking — was that dog people would pay big money for photos of their own dogs. (The prints, all hanging from clotheslines, are selling for $25).
Sadly, I informed her that the photo was not Buster, but another Boston terrier friend, the irrepressible Darcy.
Not long after she left, Darcy’s owners showed up and forked over the money for the photograph. Then they took a seat and looked at it a little more closely. The dog in the photo looked older than their’s, and the markings were slightly different.
Turns out it wasn’t Darcy (top); it was Buster (bottom).
Most graciously, they did not demand their money back. And, since I have dozens of Darcy photos from the times I’ve babysat her, I’ll be getting a new print to them — their own dog this time.
We’ll be back tonight at Captain Larry’s, 601 E. Fort Ave., in hopes of selling more photos, and none of them, we hope, under false pretenses. The exhibit will be up through next Monday.
Posted by jwoestendiek May 4th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: baltimore animal rescue & care shelter, barcs, benefit, buster, captain larry's, darcy, dog, dogs, exhibit, fundraiser, hey that's my dog, john woestendiek, ohmidog!, photographs, photography, photos
A lawsuit headed to court next week in Arlington County, Virginia will take up the question of what a pet’s life is worth.
Jeffrey Nanni sued his former domestic partner, Maurice Kevin Smith, alleging that Smith killed their 12-pound Chihuahua, Buster. Smith was found guilty of assault and battery and cruelty to animals in connection with the incident. Since Buster’s death, the suit says, Nanni, 42, a paralegal, “continues to suffer severe emotional distress.”
The suit, according to a story in Monday’s Washington Post, asks that monetary damages be awarded on the basis of Buster’s worth to Nanni “as a companion animal.”
If he wins, the case would be groundbreaking one in Virginia, where state law says that dogs and cats are considered property, and that owners are entitled to recover only the value of a pet. In the past, that has been interpreted to mean the replacement value.
Nanni’s attorney, a White House counsel for President Bill Clinton, hopes to move the boundaries of Virginia law in asking a jury to award money for “Buster’s actual value” to Nanni, saying pets have “irreplaceable relationships” with their owners.
Posted by jwoestendiek August 19th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal cruelty, arlington circuit court, arlington county, buster, chihuahua, dog, dogs, emotional distress, jeffrey nanni, killed, law, lawsuit, maurice kevin smith, monetary damages, pet, pets, pricetag, replacement, value, virginia, worth
Roy Hattersley sang the praises of mutts this week, as controversy continued to simmer over purebred breeding practices and dog shows that put a higher premium on “beauty” and “conformation” than they do on canine health.
This week saw the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals pull out of Crufts, the world’s largest dog show, due to concerns about health problems in pedigree dogs and the role Crufts plays in perpetuating those problems.
Meanwhile, the Kennel Club filed a complaint against the BBC, calling the documentary that led in part to the RSPCA withdrawal, unfair.
The multi-part report, “Pedigree Dogs Exposed” looked at the health problems experienced by certain breeds as a result of breeders striving to accentuate certain physical traits.
The documentary featured boxers with epilepsy, pugs with breathing problems and bulldogs that were unable to mate and — because of breeders striving for broader heads in the breed — unable to be born without Caesarian section.
Here’s some of what Hattersley — politician, author, journalist and former member of Parliament — wrote:
“It is barbarous to breed a dog with a brain too big for its skull just to make it look right when it is walked around the competition ring. But the idea of breeding the perfect specimen is wrong in itself. Dogs should be loved as dogs, whatever their shape and size.
“Dogs were made to be friends not exhibits, status symbols or “positional goods” that demonstrate their owner’s aesthetic sensibilities, status, income or fastidious good taste. I am for mongrels because they proclaim the glory of just being dogs – not heads set at the right angles, legs of the proper length or ears suitably pricked. Mongrels are the essence of dog – dog as a virtue in itself … I believe that being a dog is – or ought to be – enough.
Hattersley is the author of many books, including “Buster’s Diaries,” in which his dog Buster defends killing a goose in one of London’s royal Parks. In 1996 Hattersley was was fined in connection with the goose death.
His full essay can be found in the London Times.
Posted by jwoestendiek September 20th, 2008 under Muttsblog.
Tags: breeding, buster, crufts, dogs, england, genetic, hattersley, health problems, kennel club, london times, mixed breeds, mongrels, mutts, pedigree, purebred, rspca, uk