Thursday, 30 July 2009

The Dog Days of My Life: #11 - Buddy

Buddy in his prime

Buddy, a real cool dude, modelling this season's sunglasses and scarf - all colour coordinated!
Buddy's green eyes soon changed to hazel. He adored Dominie as much as she loved him and Cariadd, glad to be relieved of the attentions of Dominie, observed their capers tolerantly.Buddy as a puppy playing 'sticks' with Dominie - New Forest
Bethan, then 15, decided she would take responsibility for him and he slept in her room. We worried that she would be too tired for her long school days if her sleep were to be constantly interrupted by the needs of a small puppy. As she was also feeling after two busy nights that the spirit was more willing and resilient than the flesh she was thankful to have Buddy join the other dogs in our bedroom. However he never forgot those first nights and even now, when she comes home, he wants to go into her room with her though he never stays all night.

People often wonder why we always have our dogs upstairs with us at night. Why not keep all the mess downstairs? We would rather have them close at hand so that if they are ill in the night or want to go out, particularly when they're very young, we can attend to them. It means we have disturbed nights but that's a small price to pay for peace of mind. Dominie has limited mobility and Frodo has unpredictable idiopathic epilepsy and we feel we could not leave them alone. Buddy occasionally decides to stay downstairs but it's rare.
Buddy and Dominie share a bed

Bethan wanted to try her hand at dog-showing. To this end we attended 'ringcraft' classes and entered Buddy for his first show. They were both shaking with nerves on that occasion. They had a certain amount of success in subsequent shows though Buddy never developed his 'second thigh'* – I mean, it must be there or he wouldn't be able to function, but it's not well enough defined. To the untrained, uncritical eye he looks just fine!

Dominie didn't like letting Buddy out of her sight. On one occasion, a special Dalmatian event where everyone really did have spots before their eyes, Dominie broke free of us and rushed into the ring to be with him which caused some mirth. Naturally Bethan was deeply embarrassed. I sometimes think teenagers are in a permanent state of embarrassment when their parents are in the vicinity.

Eventually Buddy got bored with the show-dog scene. Some dogs thoroughly enjoy strutting their stuff but for him trotting round a show-ring didn't measure up to running through the forest with Barry and the other dogs.

People who are not familiar with Dalmatians assume that they are like the stars of '101 Dalmatians' and will welcome any attention at all times. In fact they are quite reserved but friendly when approached with respect. They were originally bred to clear the way on the roads for the horse-drawn carriages and to accompany and protect their people against marauders, highwaymen and thieves. They were also a handsome, eye-catching accessory to the equipage, one running ahead, one running behind the rear wheels. The best – and smallest – ran between the wheels. The breed standard still demands that they be fit, athletic dogs capable of running for hours at a steady pace.

A common question Dalmatian people hear is 'Where are the other 100?' when walking or running with one. Two or more Dalmatians exercise the mathematical brain – 101 minus 2 or 3 is . . . umm . . . 98? 97?

'What's his name? Spot?' is another witticism we all hear. The funniest remarks are the ones relating to colour. Dalmatians have black spots – everyone knows that - but actually some have liver spots. 'Do they start off brown and turn black as they get older?' asked one interested walker while another on a different occasion asked, 'Do they turn brown when they're old?' Some think that liver-spotted dogs cannot possibly be 'proper' Dalmatians. Yet others are amazed to hear that the puppies are born white and their spots develop later.


All dogs are individuals. They may share some characteristics in common but they develop their characters uniquely. Buddy was very secure in his position in the tribe (that includes humans and cats) He loved his special human, Bethan, and by association all her relations. When Gillian's first baby was born Buddy was very unsure about this noisy, absorbing small mammal with the interesting smells. He would look and then retreat to a safe place where he could rest and not have to consider his reactions. Gillian was worried about him but we have never left small babies or children unattended with any of our dogs. Once Marnie had reached a more independent stage and was toddling about Buddy discovered that she was a source of unexpected and delicious treats and was therefore a creature to be accommodated and encouraged; he became as much her acolyte as the other dogs already were. Subsequent babies (five so far, two more for Gillian and three for Gareth) have been met with enthusiasm – more sticky fingers, more discarded spoons, dishes, fruit, finger foods, rusks.

He's never been a noisy boy, our liver lad. He shows his affection by gently nibbling the fingers of returning tribe members. In his younger days he caused much merriment among Bethan's friends through his habit of sitting bolt upright on the sofa, pushing his spine well back against the support cushions. Should anyone sit next to him they were subjected to 'the lean' as he gently, insistently rested his weight against that person and waited for 'the scratching of the chest' that invariably followed. He also loves being massaged; Bethan was the first person to introduce him to this and he luxuriates in it, eventually becoming glassy-eyed and completely relaxed. This is why he so much enjoys being groomed.

Noses are exceptionally important to dogs – through them they learn such a lot about the world around them. For Buddy his nose took the place of his under-developed second thigh and became a mighty muscle in its own right. If he wants attention he will nudge a hand, an elbow, a lap-top. To begin with the nudges are gentle, little more than a light tap, a glancing touch, but if not acknowledged they become increasingly insistent until they cannot be ignored – liquids are spilt from cups and glasses, pens create illegible hieroglyphics, books are cast to the floor. His nose's greatest strength lies in opening doors. All around our house, at BNL (Buddy's Nose Level) there can be seen evidence of the nose at work. Perhaps his greatest achievements have been in the conservatory. This leads from the kitchen via internal sliding patio doors and it is where the cats are fed twice a day. It is here that Buddy keeps watch and scent. If the cats are eating something particularly toothsome he applies his nose to the door and pushes until he has gained access. Thus, to foil him, we have to lock the door, but still he waits knowing that, of right, he has first call on any morsels left in their bowl.

In inverse proportion to his liking for food is his dislike for water. It stems from his puppyhood when he had a bad case of 'Dally rash' (canine folliculitis) and had to have daily baths with foul-smelling shampoos from the vet. He will do his utmost to avoid getting his paws wet which can be challenging for him when the ground is sodden. He will take great detours to circumvent puddles. If we go in the water, perhaps at the coast, he will follow us in quite happily but then he really thinks he's more of a human than a dog and if the humans are paddling then he should do likewise.


He has always been a very confident, friendly dog, happy to meet and greet other dogs so long as they observe the courtesies. This confidence has been knocked somewhat as his vision is now impaired due to uveitis** following a bout of severe meningitis two years ago which nearly killed him; I'm sure it has caused him to age more rapidly. He is now thirteen and sees shapes and shadows, light and dark, dim outlines, movement. 

Consequently, if he gets sidetracked by an interesting sniff, he loses his sense of where we are. Sometimes he finds people to whom he can attach himself, which they find charming, particularly when they discover why. At other times he trots off resolutely, often in the wrong direction. Occasionally, although he may be close behind us, he will turn round and pace away at increasing speed. I send Jenna to guide him back. His beautiful hazel eyes are clouded blue now and many people comment on them, often asking if he has cataracts. His sense of smell is still acute but his hearing is failing and he is growing old, our boy. Old age comes suddenly to dogs, it seems. We learn so much from them and we still know so little about them. All the while he has energy and youth around him he will continue to strive and thrive – a lesson for us all, I think.
Buddy (13) and Tia (7) share a sofa - July 2009

*Second Thigh: the part of the hindquarters, corresponding to the human shin and calf, from the stifle to the hock.
**Uveitis: a condition where the part of the eye that supplies blood to the retina becomes inflamed. The inflammation causes proteins to leak out resulting in cloudiness in the eye.

5 comments:

  1. How nice to learn a little more about Buddy. It's true that old age seems to hit them very suddenly. Hopefully he's got a good while left in him yet.

    My lot know all about avoiding puddles (maybe not so much Jana), which is possibly due to having to have baths on a fairly regular basis. How to ruin a pap's day......switch on the shower and then move towards them!

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  2. Thank you Sue - we hope that he'll be around for a couple more years at least.
    I imagine your paps have to be showered for the show ring and the daily grooming must be quite time-consuming. Their coats look so soft and silky - pretty little dogs.

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  3. So lovely post
    I have enjoyed all your pictures :)
    They are so beautiful dogs!!

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  4. I enjoyed your post about your fur friends and think both your Dalmatians are beautiful. Watching our pets grow older losing their health is hard and reminds me of something I heard about the only thing wrong with dogs is that they don't live long enough. I hope you have many years left with Buddy.
    Hugs and blessings,

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  5. They are beautiful and that was a really nice post. I love all the information. Sasha sleeps upstairs with me every night.

    Anne and Sasha

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