I’m not an animal person. I always had pets growing up but only became attached to a few. The first was my cat, Colors and the second and third were dogs. One was an Australian shepherd named Star and the other was a golden retriever named Clarence. *Clarence was born during the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill debacle and whenever he did something less than tasteful, my dad would shake his head and blame it on his namesake.
Golden retrievers became a staple of the Mullins homestead seven miles from town. After Clarence lived a nice long life we got Max. Max was also a rascal and liked to disappear for days at a time. One time he was gone so long we had to go look for him. After a few weeks things were looking bleak. It turned out someone decided to keep him and chained him up next to their house. My dad offered a reward and money always talks. He got a tip, rolled up to this houses, and brought home our dog. It’s a thousand wonders he didn’t get a rifle pointed at his nose.
The last golden my dad brought home was Buddy. My mom was very sad after Max disappeared for good and didn’t want anymore dogs. Dad was never good at listening to such declarations and he decided they really needed another retriever. He found out about a puppy in…Cynthiana of all places and the rest was history. Buddy came home to Hindman about 10 years ago and had the luxury of roaming all over the hills behind the house. His pastimes included dragging in elk antlers, barking at all hours of the night, and trying to sit in your lap even though he was huge. I didn’t grow up with Buddy like I did the other dogs but I really loved him and my kids adored him.
When my dad died, Buddy looked for him. It was one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen. He couldn’t understand why dad was gone so suddenly. I knew how he felt. Buddy became extra protective of my mom. In fact, he wanted so much to love her and be next to her that he once flattened her in the driveway and nearly sent mom to the hospital.
My mom moved away from Hindman a little over a year ago and her new home is in town. There is no yard and no place for Buddy to roam safely. She knew he would need a new place to live. My wonderful friend, Sandy, and her family offered to take him in and he would live on their farm. It was a terrible decision for my mom. She wanted desperately to keep him but knew that he would hate being confined. So I took him out to the Vanhook farm last November. I cried all day. I told him I was so sorry that he couldn’t live at my house. I told my dad I was sorry. Stephen had to leave work and help me because I just couldn’t do it. But I knew deep down that Buddy would love his new home and I was right. He got to ride around in the back of a truck. He had other dogs to play with and even got to sleep inside most nights. Buddy was meant to be a farm dog. For 13 months he led a charmed life that while different from what he was used to, was truly wonderful.
Buddy died a few days ago. He did not suffer. He simply left this world quickly and quietly. I’ve heard that all dogs go to Heaven. I think for Buddy, that means an endless supply of dog treats, elk antlers, and long rides in the back of a farm truck. Best of all, it means he finally found my dad.
*A special thank you to Robby, Sandy, Caroline, Ben, and John Embry Vanhook for taking such great care of Buddy for our family.