On Saturday we said goodbye to Buzzle. He had been struggling with lymphoma, had lost a lot of weight, and we were told it had spread to other organs and his bones as well.
The emotional and physical exhaustion we felt Saturday exceeded anything we've felt before, and yet it was hard to eat or sleep.
We adopted Buzzle in August of 2002, shortly after returning from our summer in Metz, France. We had been searching a few of the adoption places around Atlanta but hadn't made any decision. We stopped by the Second Chance adoption fair at the Petsmart on Ponce and saw a scraggly, brownish dog in the far corner, eyes covered in tufts of mangled hair and seated as far back in the cage as possible. He didn't act at all like any of the other dogs and was shivering, though it wasn't due to temperature.
We asked to see him and took a seat in a chair next to a concrete support beam in the shade. I stroked his head and tried to get a look at his eyes. He mostly just sat there, but as soon as I stopped petting him--perhaps we were going to put him back--he lifted his paw and swiped it gently at my pant leg. Shortly after that we were doing an interview, signing papers, and taking a picture.
We bought a bright blue collar and probably a few more things and then got in the Skylark to go back to our apartment off Collier Rd.
After his first bath we realized he wasn't nearly as brown as he looked. Most of that was due to dried blood (surgery for a neck growth) and dirt. He was really happy after his bath, a trait he had all his life. He'd run around and I'd chase him. I'd tell him to find his toy and he'd look to the left and right until he saw it laying somewhere, then rush over and grab it and take off with me close behind.
He was somewhat shy at first and even though he was house trained he made a little mess near the door (he was trying, but we weren't home) the first day. He quickly got used to our schedule and would run down the stairs after I came home to take him out, getting to the bottom before me.
We had him lay on our old black futon at first, but he always seemed to be staring over at the couch that we were on. One day we patted it while he was nearby on the floor and he immediately jumped up and took a spot near the arm rest. It was like he had been waiting for such an invite. After that--but never before--there was hardly a day we didn't come home to find him sleeping up on the couch, looking towards the french doors that led to the balcony.
For walks we'd take him to Tanyard Creek and I'd test his strength in little ways. He was somewhat scared to cross the dry creekbed, which was lined with rocks. I'd go on the side opposite him and then call him. He'd slowly ease his way down the slope, carefully step through some rocks at the bottom and then run up the other side with a speed that showed his sense of accomplishment.
In Florida he finally got some land of his own. He spent a lot of time marking it and we eventually got him a dog door because we felt bad about being at work for about 10 hours. It took him awhile to understand how it worked and we weren't sure he'd ever be able to go out on his own. One day we came home from work and he wasn't anywhere to be seen. We walked toward the sliding door and peeled the curtain back and there he was. After that we never worried about him having to hold it. He'd get up in the morning and go out quite a few times every day whenever he felt like it. In the mornings he'd sun himself on the patio, standing near the door until he was warm enough (the house was kept cool in the winter and spring).
He'd follow us from room to room as we went through our routine, staying behind us in the study in the evenings and laying on or near the couch while we watched TV.
We'd often put him on our bed and the first thing he'd do was start rubbing his face in the fabric. I'd rub his back and it'd encourage him further; he'd rub his head side to side, pressing inward, and make little grunts and come up for air. He liked doing that with fresh laundry piles too.
He loved snacks, particularly Beggin Strips. He could be anywhere but once Michelle asked if he wanted a snack from the kitchen he'd make his way to her. We'd usually make him pant or jump up and down a bit to get it. His regular food would sit untouched for many hours until he was sure there'd be no more snacks, at which point he'd pick out the softer pieces and eat them. Sometimes I'd wake up to hear him crunching the harder pieces he'd left behind the night before. I'd wake up, make some coffee, and set him up with a fresh bowl.
He was interesting in that he liked playing hide and seek. Whenever we'd go to the park we'd walk off towards the swings and he'd linger behind, sniffing or something. After a moment he'd look up and not see us, then adjust his position to face left, then right. Then he'd make some sort of decision and march off in a direction, usually correct. While he was approaching us we'd jump behind some trees and wait for him to look up again. He'd stop abrubtly, glance left, then right, then maybe turn around (as if we'd slipped behind him--anything was possible to him), then face forward again. Sometimes we'd call out or jingle the keys to get him on track. He'd get really close and we'd either be discovered or just jump out to surprise him. It never scared him, but he seemed relieved and proud to have found us. We'd pet him and call him a good boy then go do it again.
Once we moved back to Atlanta we'd go to walk around Tech at night. The weather was nice that May and he had no problem walking long distances with us. We felt that he had been coming down with arthritis, but it seemed to lift completely on these nights.
We had a tennis ball with us one night and started throwing it against a wall in the park behind Skiles. We were letting Buzzle do his thing, sniffing around the monkey grass. As I was throwing the ball and running to catch it as it rolled back, Buzzle suddenly hopped in front of me and tried to catch it. It was surprising, and I threw it with him a few more times.
A couple weeks later, though his arthritis had started to seem worse, we walked with him in the shallow water of the Campanile. We bought a little life jacket and used it to float him in the deeper parts. He can't swim for some reason and would sink without it, and even with it I had to hold the handle to keep him afloat. After we pulled him out of the water his legs continued to swim through the air which was funny.
His health continued to decline, and eventually we realized that his arthritis was actually something the cancer was doing to him that had seemed like arthritis. He was misdiagnosed once, and it was too many times. Dr. Brooks at Briarcliff tested him for lymphoma the night we brought him in with swollen nodes, but said he didn't show any signs. The problem was she didn't biopsy or aspirate the nodes themselves, or she'd have seen it. Even in subsequent visits lymphoma was ruled out due to that test and we instead gave him courses of antibiotics, which were more or less wasting his time with us.
Once we knew his prognosis and had been transferred to the care of Dr. Muller--the one doctor Buzzle seemed relaxed around--we started to cook really nice things for Buzzle, knowing his hunger wouldn't last. One night we gave him a rib of lamb and he tore into it eagerly, though not very effectually. He had steak, hamburger, chicken, and it was all good while it lasted.
His last day was September 29th. That morning we took him to Tech. The weather was great, cool and crisp. We stretched a blanket out and let him lay with his nose near the grass. The breeze was strong at times and the leaves rustled above us. We returned home and laid with him some more. He ate some fried chicken from my hand. He was occasionally able to eat on his own, but only a few bites. I picked him up like a baby and walked out to the balcony. He looked around a little, as he loved to do, but after a moment let his head fall to my shoulder for support. It's hard to do things when everything you're doing is for the last time, but it was a good day and we were glad to have been able to be there for him.
We'll always remember you, Buzzle.