I’ve grown up with pets for as long as I can remember. My Easterling family seemed to have an affinity for the feline and canine variety of pets and the Russell side, especially my Aunt Diana, whom we sadly lost about two years ago, loved dogs.
The first dog I remember loving was Lucy Ann. She was a little mutt puppy I named after a character on a TV show that I believe was called The Littles. I was 4 or 5 years old at the time. I know she died soon after I got her, but I’m not sure how, but I sure loved that little dog and missed her when she left us.
Next was Bobby. He was a Labrador-Doberman mix who was all black except for a white stripe all the way around his waist from where he was caught in the zipper of a sleeping bag when he was about six weeks old—just a few weeks before we got him. I remember feeding him in an old metal cake pan, and he was so small that he would just lay in the whole pan to eat. Bobby stayed with us from the first home in which I lived with my mother and stepfather through our move to our next home and the birth of my little sister, Kelli.
Puppy Doo was a stray at a job site where my stepdad was helping with plumbing. Ronnie fed the pup some of his sandwich and chips every day for the week he worked there. At the end of the week, he just picked up the pup and brought him home to us.
Bobby died when my sister was almost 2 years old. We don’t know for sure what happened to make him snap, but he attacked her suddenly. Puppy Doo tried to intervene, but my stepdad had to punch Bobby to get him off of Kelli. My sister had to get some stitches in her mouth and head, and Bobby had to be put down and tested for rabies. I was scared that my sister had been hurt, and devastated that Bobby, who had been such a gentle dog, was the one who’d hurt her.
My stepdad had deer dogs when I was growing up as well. We had a mama dog Beagle named Candy who had six puppies that started our hunting dog family. She had 3 boys and 3 girls, 1 set each of tricolor (black, reddish brown, white), dark lemon (brownish red) and white, and lemon and white. Candy later died of old age.
The pups were named Rowdy, Princess, Bruno, Lemonade, Alphabet, and Lazy. Rowdy and Alphabet got lost during a hunt and never came home. Princess died after giving birth to a litter of pups when she was a couple of years old. Bruno was a great dear dog who later died of poisoning (likely antifreeze) while at deer camp one year. Lazy and Lemonade stuck around the longest, dying of old age.
Lemonade was my favorite because she wouldn’t stay in the dog pen. She could jump and climb a 6ft chainlink fence—which led to a mutt-astic litter of puppies including PJ (Puppy Doo Junior.) We gave away all of the pups except PJ, who sadly succumbed to Parvo after just a few months with us. I haven’t been able to locate a photo of him, but he was identical to his father.
Speaking of PJ’s father, Puppy Doo left us not long after due to old age. He wandered off somewhere on the ten acres to pass away peacefully. We had other litters of Beagle puppies that we kids loved on until they were sold to their new owners. Keeping one or two every now and then. We tried not to get too attached to them since we knew they would be going to new homes.
I remember one we kept that we’d named Curly. She was a cute little runt of a tricolored Beagle who was born with a broken tail that curled like a hook at the end. The man who was going to buy her said he planned to lop off that deformed tail. Ronnie changed his mind about the sale on the spot and said the dog was no longer for sale. And you know what? Curly was one of the best little deer dogs Ronnie had for several seasons before she died of old age.
We briefly had a black and white boxer mix we’d named Beethoven. The poor little guy died of Parvo. It was a vicious disease the was just in the ground we supposed. The pups were not old enough to be vaccinated for it. After some mourning over the loss of our pup, we opened our home to a shelter dog we named Taffy the summer I turned 12. She was a comfort to us after losing my Russell grandparents not long before.
Taffy was the sweetest thing. She was a couple of years old when we got her, and therefore immune to Parvo due to her age and the fact that she could be vaccinated. We fell in love with her on the spot at the animal shelter. She was this little, blond short-haired dog the size of a Beagle. We’re not really sure what her mutt DNA was, but we loved that dog so much.
We took her home for the weekend and then took her to the vet that Monday to have her spayed. Two days later when we brought her home again, she was so happy to see us that she started whimpering and wagging her tail so much that her whole butt was moving too. Then, she about gassed us out on the way home, causing us to drive the 20 minutes with all the windows down on the station wagon we had at the time.
Sweet Taffy, whom I’d affectionately called Taffeta or Taffeenie, was with us for a long time. She saw me all the way through high school and college before my parents had to make the humane choice to help her cross the rainbow bridge that is the reward for all the sweet pets when they die.
And then came Buddy, who is the first dog I’ve owned as an adult. Buddy was given to Jonathan and me by his mother Joan in July 2005, about two months before our wedding. She saw an ad in the newspaper about a free 10-week-old Beagle-Basset Hound mix puppy. She called up the young lady, who had made the mistake of trying to keep Buddy in her apartment. Buddy had torn up everything in the couple of weeks she’d had him.
I’m not sure what his name was before he was ours, but when I picked up the little guy and said, “Hey, buddy, what’s your name?” the way that sweet little dog cocked his head to the side told me right away that his name was Buddy. He was the perfect companion for Jonathan while he was alone in the rent house that we would live in after our wedding. Buddy would curl up on Jonathan’s lap every night and watch cartoons with him.
I often teased Jonathan that I married him for the dog. HaHa. Buddy aka Buddinky was our first baby. He learned to sit and shake, but he didn’t learn any more tricks or obedience training. Seriously. He flunked obedience class. We didn’t care because we loved our Buddy-boy.
When we lived in our starter home in Pottsville, Buddy found his way out of our wooden privacy fence several days in a row, and we couldn’t figure out how he was getting out, earning him the nickname Boudini (rhymes with Houdini, the escape artist/magician). Finally, I walked the fence hitting every board until I found the loose board that had allowed Buddy to escape without being able to get back inside. He was always waiting for us on the front porch when we got home, but we didn’t want him to get lost or be without access to his water bowl.
Buddy immediately loved our children, Drew and Meredith. They each had an instant best friend in him. Buddy was protective of them and loved licking their toes to make them laugh. Buddy also enjoyed cleaning up after my messy eaters. His favorite was spaghetti night. He also had a tendency to take off with treasures such as shoes or toys so he could bury them and then present them to us later.
Later, we moved Buddy for the third and final time to what we’re calling our forever home in Dardanelle. We put in a chainlink fence for easier maintenance so that Buddy could be safe and also see his surroundings. We contemplated getting a second dog for companionship for Buddy, but decided against it since he seemed content. Later, in 2016, when Buddy was 11 years old, and starting to move a little slower, he found a Chiweenie puppy hiding under our lawnmower on our carport. Buddy’s incessant barking alerted me to the pup’s presence, and I instantly fell in love again with little Peanut.
Buddy never asked for a little brother, but he took to Peanut pretty well, and the two boys loved each other. Buddy now had a shadow and bark-instigator. I enjoyed seeing the boys snuggle together in the doghouse.
Almost three years ago, we thought we were going to lose our older friend around Halloween. A trip to the vet told us that Bud was going into congestive heart failure. We made the decision to try heart medication and diuretics to see if it would improve his quality of life. It worked, and he was like a puppy again for about a year. It was a great year. The following year, he was older and slower, but still very happy and healthy for an old man dog with a heart condition.
Then he had tumors pop up. Most were fatty tumors that weren’t causing him any issues, but then he had one on his face and one on his back paw that interfered with walking. Knowing these tumors were likely cancerous, we had them removed a little over a year ago to improve Buddy’s quality of life because he was still doing quite well. We made the conscious decision to remove but not treat and to not explore other areas due to Buddy’s advanced age.
In March 2020, COVID-19 forced us home from work and school. By this time, Buddy had trouble holding his bladder. We bought washable cloth dog wraps and adjusted so that we could keep Buddy inside with us and Peanut. I think Jonathan and I figured it might be our last summer with Buddy. I hate that we were right.
Now I am part of that parent group who’s had to make a decision that hurts like hell, but it was the right thing to do for our Buddy. After a really rough day on Wednesday, we received bloodwork results yesterday that told us Buddy’s cancer is so bad now that his liver and kidneys are shutting down. He was in pain, and the only thing we could do was help him no matter how much it would hurt to say goodbye.
The kids stayed home from school today, and Jonathan and I took vacation days from work. We loved on Buddy and did his favorite things to the best of our ability in his weakened state. We did our best to make his last day peaceful. We’ve all cried on and off.
Late this afternoon, we took Buddy on his last car ride to the vet where we said goodbye. I gave the kids the choice of going or staying home and they both wanted to be there. We’re really going to miss our Buddinky. I know we’ll open our hearts to another dog in the future, but there will be a Buddy-sized hole in our family for a while.
In loving memory of Buddy Collins, 2005-2020. Thank you for 15 years of barking to chase away invisible threats, gassing us out of the living room, paw shakes, funny moments, and so much love.
If love were enough, our pupper would have lived forever.
-Brandi Easterling Collins