Seven years ago on Father's Day, our family surprised my dad with a golden retriever puppy. Years earlier, Bandit, my dog, had passed after surgery to remove a fatty tumor from his rib/stomach area. When Bandit died, it came as a complete shock to our vet as well as us. Bandit had come out of surgery happy, eating, drinking, going potty, jumping and playing like he normally did. An hour after the vet tech had taken him out, she came back to the recovery room and found him on the ground without a pulse. We later were told there seemed to be bone marrow that had made its way into Bandit's blood stream and stopped his heart...something that can happen without vets knowing until it's too late.
Being that Bandit was my dog, I was completely ballistic; however, my dad took the loss hard as well. You see, with my brother off to college, Bandit was the other "man in the house." My brother's dog, Abby, was not the right personality fit for my dad; he couldn't bond with her like he did with Bandit. Abby was not a cookie that you could readily enjoy with milk!
Father's Day, a day to celebrate your father, should show your thankfulness in all he does for you and family. So, my mom's idea was to get him the perfect gift-one to make him happy.
That's when we heard about Sievers Retrievers in Meppen, Illinois. A local Decaturan had gotten a black lab from them and loved their pooch. My mom found their website and showed me the litter that appeared to be around Father's Day. The Goldens were beautiful, but they definitely were larger than a normal standard.
My dad always said that his next dog would be a Golden because "Bandit's personality matched a Golden's unconditional love and eternal happiness." SIDE NOTE: Bandit, the thief of our hearts, was a pound puppy of a golden/GSD/collie mix, and was the best dog ever.
Our family had only adopted our animals from the county shelter, and my dad was becoming active in the county animal shelter board as a volunteer and later its President. So, we wondered if there would be any push back from my dad. When Father's Day approached, my mom broke the news that we didn't have a present physically there. Of course my dad didn't show any disappointment and stated he didn't need anything. That's when we told him about the puppy. He got so excited and was like a little kid waiting for the appointment to meet the Siever family. The time came to make the trip...
Meppen is about 3 hours from our house, and we passed a lot of fruit stands that I wanted to visit (ORGANIC PEACHES!!!); however, our mission was clear--To see if the Golden we were visiting could be a part of the Ewers family. We finally arrived to Roger & Michelle Siever's home and drove up the gravel dirt driveway. My mom, dad and I got out of the car to see Roger walking through the dust cloud holding a pouting Golden puppy who looked like he had just been woken up from a nap.
This Golden puppy looked up at us with his brown eyes, black shiny nose and arms crossed...and we fell in love. He had a ridge of hair that ran from between his eyes straight down his nose. His coat was blondy-blonde. Beautiful, soft. And he had ears as soft as velvet.
We asked Roger why no one had wanted this puppy, but he couldn't give us a straight answer. Was it because the ridge of hair was seen as a "fault" by breeding standards? Was it the fact that he already weighed 11+ pounds at eight weeks old? Or, indeed, was it that Roger was hoping to could keep this blonde puppy because he had fallen in love with him too??? If you ask me, I think guess 3 is the answer why he was the last pup standing.
Roger took us into their house to meet Michelle and their children. Roger said to us, "The dogs aren't allowed in our house (as he carried Buddy inside with us). They have their own house and huge acres of land to run on." Michelle was a sweet lady who started feeding the puppy cheese and said "This little one absolutely LOVES cheese. We'll give you a slice on the ride home if he gets antsy. Food always calms puppies down. A lil treat!" She fed the pup a little piece of cheese, which made him smile and wiggle with joy.
We took the puppy home that day, and my dad named him Buddy. We drove home, with my dad in the back seat holding Buddy. An hour into the drive home, we stopped to let Buddy potty. Buddy ran to the grass. In an excitedly cheery tone, my mom said "Good boy, Buddy!" Hearing my mom so happy made Buddy's eyes light up, and he ran right over to her, doing his puppy pride dance around her feet. Seriously adorable! Back in the car for the other 2 hours, and my dad gave Buddy some of the cheese Michelle had given them. A half hour after that, Buddy barfed up cheese, water and puppy food ALL OVER my dad. Needless to say, it was both hilarious and stinky!
The past 7 years have been happy, loving and joyful. Buddy has been a saving grace to my dad when he felt there was no one at home to talk to, his job pissed him off and my dad needed a calming presence. Work would stress my dad, and he would come home cussing. Intuitively, Buddy would realize "Hey, Dad's freaking out AND HIS FACE IS TURNING RED!!!" So, every time Buddy hears my dad using certain words (SHIT, DAMMIT!) he runs up jumping up and down as if to say "Call the heck down or you'll have a heart attack, Dad!"
Buddy now has 2 adopted (shelter) brothers, Kaiser and Cody. Kaiser was adopted from the animal shelter on a cold, rainy February day. An animal control agent called my dad when a long-haired German Shepherd was relinquished by its owners. My parents had been looking for a possible companion for Buddy since Abby (my brother's dog) had passed. My mom really wanted a shepherd, because she had been around them through her childhood and believes them to be one of the best dogs ever! When they saw Kaiser, his self esteem beaten down and shivering from fear, they knew he needed a loving home. Ours would be perfect. Cody was another owner surrender who came in when he was about 3-4 years old. Apparently, his "destructive" behavior was too much for his family to handle. I mean, Cody's torn some things up but not too terrible. We found out he was a Flat Coat Retriver, a breed I'd never heard of. They're basically a black Golden! SUPER CUTE & FLUFFY!!! Buddy loves his brothers...and they love him. They can't do anything without the others.
My dad and "The Boys" (along with our cat Figaro...who wants/thinks he's a dog) form a pack. The Boys look out for my parents, especially Dad, and offer a heartwarming comfort.
Back in college, I took one of my creative writing courses and told my dad I wanted to start writing children's books with Buddy as the main character. The series being called "Buddy the Wonder Dog." Buddy seemed to escape every bout of sickness or injury...like when he would eat HANDFULS of mulch without it tearing up his stomach or eating the chocolate chip cookies left on the counter without puking. That was until recently....
A week or two before Thanksgiving, Buddy was taken in for a hard mass on his shoulder. You should know our vet, who we lovingly call Aunt Doctor Becky (ADB), has a Siever's Golden after she saw us with Buddy. Her dog, Winston, is Buddy's uncle!!! ADB took x-rays and couldn't find anything--so she and my parents thought it might have been a sprained shoulder. When it didn't get better, my parents took Buddy back in for a biopsy. That's when ADB discovered that our Golden boy, Buddy, has Stage 1 bone cancer. Today, he went to have additional tests run at the University of Illinois' Veterinary Medicine building. We are blessed to have one of the top 3 vet schools within an hour drive. Because of the tumor already growing deep into the bone and tissue, the recommendation was to have the leg amputated. My parents think the surgery will be tomorrow or Thursday, but it was a hard decision for my dad to make. ADB is an alumi of UofI Vet, and my parents have asked her to do the surgery as we trust her more than anyone with Buddy.
There's so much of the "unknown" for this choice. What will his quality of life be like? Will he be able to play, run, walk, swim and enjoy his life as he would have before? Will Buddy fully recover? Will he forever be in pain that he hides and can't tell us about? Or will he be a part of that small percentage of dogs that wake up from the surgery and cry in agony as they see their missing limb for the first time? In that small percentage, will he be one of the dogs that recoil from human touch because he is so self conscious and upset? What will his doggie self esteem be?
Will Buddy feel as though we did this to him on purpose and feel as though we don't love him? Will Kaiser and Cody accept him back after surgery?
Buddy is pure joy. All he wants is: food, pets, hugs, cuddles, Bite-n-Fight play, walks, swimming in the pool and sleepy time. Doesn't seem like so much compared to what I want...a magical cure for him that leaves him in-tact and out of pain.
I love Buddy the Wonder Dog. I can't wait to get home for Christmas and snuggle up with him and pet his velvet ears. His first Christmas in 7 years that he won't be able to play in the snow....wonder if mom will let us build a snowman INSIDE for him! Hmmm....
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