By LARRY WOODY
I lost my best Buddy last week.
I took our faithful old Lab to a veterinarian and the decision was made to euthanize him.
Buddy was going on 15, old for a Lab. He had been in declining health for some time, losing weight and so crippled in his hindquarters he could hardly walk.
He whimpered in pain when he tried to stand up. He had to be helped up and down the back-porch steps when he'd scratch at the door to go outside.
It hurt to watch him hurt.
A couple of weeks ago Buddy virtually stopped eating. Not even crispy chunks of fried chicken skin -- his favorite -- was able to stir his appetite.
Once sleek and robust, Buddy began to wither away before our eyes. It was almost as though he had made the decision to give up, and now it was up to us.
Our vet has a 24-hour service and I scheduled an appointment for Buddy at 4:30 a.m. I figured it would be un-crowded and less stressful at that quiet hour.
I led Buddy out of the house and helped him climb into the front seat of my pickup.
Buddy always loved to go for rides. His first was as a frisky little puppy when our granddaughter Makayla picked him out at the pound and she and her mom brought him home. That was over 14 years ago. Now old and frail, Buddy was taking his final ride.
When we got to the vets' office I helped Buddy out, slipped on his leash, and led him inside. The vet was waiting for us in the silent, florescent-lit clinic. Buddy sniffed her hand and gave her a friendly wag.
The vet examined him and said he had some sort of degenerative, crippling disease I couldn't pronounce. It doesn't matter what it was called; it was terminal.
She said we had two choices: allow Buddy a few more weeks of deterioration and suffering, or end it now.
The vet saw the answer in the tear I brushed back.
She led Buddy out of the room and down a corridor. He trotted along behind her, limping, tail wagging slightly. He never looked back. Maybe goodbye was as hard for him as it was for me.
The vet had asked if I wanted to be present during the "procedure." I declined. I told her I'd wait outside.
Minutes later it was over.
The vet offered to "dispose of the remains."
I said no, I would take Buddy home. I carried the white, cardboard container out to the truck, placed it on the front seat, and drove home as dawn began to glisten on the horizon.
I buried Buddy on a shady hillside across the creek that meanders through our back yard.
It would be poetic to say Buddy had spent many a happy day there, frolicking in the woods and splashing in the sparkling water. But that wouldn't be true. The truth is, Buddy was a Labrador Retriever who disdained the water, and didn't care for the outdoors in general. Once, as a puppy, he tried chasing a squirrel but his heart wasn't in it.
He didn't know any tricks. He wouldn't shake hands, sit up or roll over.
He wasn't much of a watchdog. He would bark at a stranger, but the stranger could quickly bribe his silence with a pat and a tummy-rub. The only way Buddy could have stopped a burglar would have been if the intruder tripped over him in the dark.
Buddy was patient and gentle with kids -- Makayla and countless other tykes who romped through our humble abode over the years. He endured all the roughhousing without lifting a paw.
Buddy wasn't a fancy dog, not particularly energetic and maybe not "smart" by some standards. But he was a good dog. He was faithful and friendly, never inflicted a pain nor caused a problem. That's not a bad eulogy.
He was a good dog, and I miss him.