***My sister Cristy just sent me this email she wrote to a friend when he asked her to share a personal story from her childhood. Since things have been so heavy around here...I thought I'd share it because 1-its so well written and 2-Its about my best friend growing up. Note: I am "little sister".
When I was about 10 or so, our neighbors’ dog started coming to our place and hanging out. There were a few problems with this new arrangement: one, he was absolutely covered in fleas, this being California and fleas enjoyed life on a dog in the sun; two, my little sister, who was about 4 at the time, loved him and wanted to hug him and carry him around inside the house (see problem one), and finally, it was only barely apparent that this animal was, in fact, a dog and not a large rat who had escaped from a border town. Buddy was ugly on a competitive level—small and nervous, he was a truly hideous mix of a terrier and something else that should never have mixed with a terrier. At best he looked like an evil wizard and at worst, like an overgrown rodent. When my mom realized that our neighbors, who were preparing to move, intended to leave Buddy with us, she gave the dog a bath and he was ours.
Buddy had a driving, all consuming passion: he loved tennis balls. He didn’t care if they were dingy and flat or if they were florescent and bouncy, he loved them all equally. And his love wasn’t passive; Buddy would go to any lengths to find and retrieve a tennis ball. You could throw it up a tree and Buddy would climb the tree. Put the tennis ball at the top of a dense five foot high hedge and Buddy would work his way through the hedge and get the ball. Bodies of water, over the next hill, it never mattered where you threw the ball, Buddy would get it, bring it back to you, dropping the slimy greenish sphere of rubber and fuzz expectantly in front of you. He always brought it back. More than once when we took Buddy hiking or camping, he would grow frantic in one particular area of the campground, barking, running around in circles, and then he would start digging. Once he dug a 4 foot hole and there, underneath it all, was a filthy tennis ball that he triumphantly carried up out of his hole and dropped in front of us. His dedication to tennis balls would have shamed the even the most crazed fanatic.
Buddy was small—about the size of a large cat. But despite his diminutive stature, Buddy survived a rattlesnake bite (we got him to the vet in time to save him), an attack from a bobcat who ripped a gash in his side and years later, an attack from a protective mother deer who slashed his nose open and gave him a concussion. He fell in a 20 foot hole. I once accidentally slammed 2 inches of his tail in the door, cutting off its tip so that blood flung around the room with every wag of his tail.
Tennis balls were his life’s work, but Buddy still found time for romance. He found love in the form of a green and purple knitted afghan that he humped with joy and shameless abandon just about every day of his life.
Buddy must have also felt a certain affection for us, his people. He allowed my sister to regularly dress him up in a bonnet with lace trim and put him in her doll stroller. He’d sit there, if not exactly proud, at least resigned, like Merlin’s less attractive wizard counterpart with shaggy whiskers and fugitive eyes darting from underneath a pink bonnet.
I was living across the country when old age and sickness brought Buddy’s life to an end. I wasn’t there when his eye sight deteriorated, but from all accounts, poor vision never stopped him from darting off after a tennis ball rolled across the room. He didn’t need to see it; like anyone with a consuming passion, he found a way to continue to do what love ‘til the end. I suppose he knew tennis balls by their smell. We buried him at home, marking his grave with a tennis ball nailed to a wooden slat.