Black as Night, Good as Gold

Buster of Walnut Knob 1998-2003
Buster of Walnut Knob 1998-2003

It was May 2003 that we first wondered if our friend Buster might not live out his normal Labrador life expectancy.

He’d been showing odd symptoms of pain and increasing disability since Autumn. His weakness would come and go, first in his front right leg, then his neck, then he’d be fine for a few weeks and we hoped it was all over.

But it kept coming back, and each time the dog was in a little more pain, barely able to get outside and back a few times a day. A few steps into the grass as far as he could go. We never did know a name for what took him at four and a half years old.

Tsuga, in May of 2003, was the size of a walnut, and in July when we put Buster out of his misery, T-dog was less than two weeks old. Now, he’ll soon be six, and he’s outlived his predecessor by a year and a half.

Today I found this noiresque image of Buster, old friend departed, mis-filed on my computer, so had not seen it for years. Doing so brought the story powerfully back to me–as you dog folks can imagine.


About fred

Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

10 comments:

  1. This is a stunning photograph of a dog with such dignity! This image illustrates your admiration of Buster’s struggle, Fred.

  2. That’s not just a picture, it’s a portrait!
    It reminds me of all the dogs I’ve had, all the way back to the first I can remember. Although they are no longer with us, they are all still with me. Mike, Fillup(that’s a story in itself), Brownie, Mister(an all time great!), Chucka and Rusty were always my constant companions and the definition of “Semper Fi!”.
    Now we have Gretchen, chief of security, Patrick, the socialite and Jones, who is MY dog.
    Aah, Fred, you have struck a chord in my heart, Sir. Thank you so much for bringing all that back to me on a beautiful morning.
    By the way, give ol’ Tsug’ a rub behind the ears for me and tell him he’s a goo’boy!

  3. YES, I REMEMBER YOUR STORY ABOUT BUSTER, IN SLOW ROAD HOME. YOUR TRIP TO THE VET, THAT LAST TIME, WAS HEART-WRETCHING. MY WIFE AND I HAVE DONE THAT SO MANY TIMES. WE STAYED WITH OUR BELOVED DOGS, AND ONE CAT, UNTIL THEY CLOSED THEIR EYES THAT LAST TIME. WE ALWAYS WANTED THEM TO KNOW THAT WE WERE THERE, TILL THE VERY END. THANKS SO MUCH FOR SHARING YOUR MEMORY OF BUSTER, AGAIN, WITH US. THANKS FOR THE PHOTO……YES, GIVE TSUGA AN EXTRA DOG BONE TODAY…..

    MARK

  4. It is a beautiful picture of a good friend. I imagine that happening across it unsuspecting must have given you a bit of a jolt. As it should be, I suppose, with parts of our lives that matter. Give Tsuga an extra pat on the head and an extra ear scritch today!

  5. This is the most beautiful dog photo I’ve ever seen. Life without dogs cannot be. Your images are more beautiful than ever. I stopped reading blogs and had forgotten how wonderful yours is. I’m back!

  6. Seeing Buster’s portrait brought tears to my eyes.

    It’s never easy losing our faithful companions, canine or feline, is it?

  7. What a fabulous looking dog Buster was! It’s so difficult to lose a dog… they become such friends to we humans, members of the family.

    Thanks for sharing your photo with us as well as your story of Buster.

    Take care,
    Di
    The Blue Ridge Gal

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