“If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.”
– Will Rogers

By RIMSIE McCONIGA
rmcconiga@leavenworthtimes.com


When Judy Koch said goodbye to her dear friend “BuddyBear” a few weeks ago, she was comforted by the fact that their 12 years together would provide her with beautiful memories for the rest of her life.
Finding Buddy and his sister while on a walk in the country was life-changing for Judy and the puppy.


“I lived in the country, and some evil person had dumped these pups off on a dead-end gravel road that was part of my regular walking route,” says Judy. “They were probably about 4 months old at the time. Buddy's sister was a friendly pup who found refuge immediately with the next-door neighbors. Buddy had severe head trauma, thought to be caused by being kicked in the head or thrown out of a vehicle, and was scared to death. He would not come to me. He lived in a culvert for four days. I brought him food and water. On the fourth day, the weathermen were calling for a gully-washing rain. I sat on the side of the road ditch and told him he was likely to get washed away if he didn't come home with me that night. He finished his food, turned around, looked at me, crawled up into my lap and started to cry. He was literally sobbing. Puppy sobs. I still get teary-eyed to think of it.”


They headed home together but that wasn’t the end of Buddy’s problems. His head trauma had been severe enough to cause him to walk in circles, staggering, with his head cocked. Judy jokingly called him “U-turn” the first few days, but when his condition didn’t improve, she decided it would be best to have him put down because he wasn’t adoptable. “My goal was, of course to get him adopted out, since I already had two dogs,” says Judy. “I took him to a local vet who suggested giving him a couple of cortisone shots to shrink the swelling in his brain, ears and eye. The hope was with plenty of fresh air and exercise, he would come out of it.”


Much to Judy’s delight, he did. She says that Buddy was always a little slower thinking than the other dogs, or perhaps just didn’t see as well. But that was not a problem for either of them. To Judy, he was all that much more special and lovable because of it.
“He depended on me to keep him safe, and he explored the world by my side,” she said. “We had many an adventure, Bud and I, and of course, the idea of finding him another home flew out the window pretty quickly. Buddy was completely devoted to me, and I to him.”


With his difficult puppyhood behind him, Buddy was happy to be part of a family. Judy and Buddy moved three times in 12 years. Judy says he was happy wherever she hung her hat and called home. He not only adjusted to changes easily, he also helped Judy navigate some major life changes. He accompanied her on many camping trips throughout the Midwest over the years. And he even served as best man at her wedding in Colorado, adorned with a new collar and kerchief.


One of the pair’s most memorable adventures was shortly after he had been found.
“During one of our walks on a hot day, the big dogs all jumped into a farm pond,” says Judy. “Now, Bud had never seen water before, much less a pond. He ran pell-mell down the bank straight into the water, floundered around and promptly sank like a rock. I thought ‘OK, he'll swim, but apparently his equilibrium being off, he couldn't. I waded out into the pond, swam a few strokes, and by the time I got to him, I could just barely see a white silhouette going down into the muddy water. I reached down, snagged him by his back and hauled him out. Whew! Close call. I never let Bud get into water for years after that, although he was able to swim a few strokes in his later years.”
Although Buddy showed much respect for Judy’s horses and knew that he needed to stay on the outside of the barbed-wire fence that contained them, his biggest life challenge was his adopted brother, a German Shepherd rescue named Beau. “Poor Bud didn't have a moment's peace for a couple of years after Beau's arrival, much less a nice toy,” says Judy. “Of course in the end, they were great chums.”
When Judy noticed that Bud was starting to get weak in his back legs, she took him to the veterinarian.


Blood work showed that he had cancer and since the prognosis with cancer treatment for a dog at 12 years of age wasn’t promising, Judy took him home to resume life with their “new normal.”
The cancer spread quickly and an X-ray showed a huge tumor in his abdominal area. Judy had hoped to keep him comfortable and by her side for as long as possible. When it became apparent that he was in some distress and Judy saw the X-ray, she knew she couldn’t let him suffer and decided to have him humanely euthanized.
“I held him in my arms for his last breath. He was so soft, so sweet,” she said.
Judy is grateful for the empathetic people at Cedar Ridge Vet Clinic in Atchison who were so kind to her and Buddy.


“They helped me schedule to have him cremated, and my husband and I have decided that his ashes will accompany us on all future camping trips, which he enjoyed so,” says Judy.


“Buddy wasn't a shelter adoption. Thankfully, we have local people who have stepped up and formed shelters so that people don't ‘dispose’ of unwanted litters of pups like Buddy and his sister out in the country like they used to. Please consider patronizing these local shelters when considering adding a pet to your family. There are so very, very many loving souls like Buddy who are out there and can enrich our lives so much. Hundreds of thousands of loving souls like Buddy either languish their lives away in shelters or are euthanized. Spay, neuter. Don't buy from pet stores, who buy from puppy mills. If you can't add a pet to your family, consider volunteering at one of your local shelters. My hope is within my lifetime to see the need for any unwanted animal to be euthanized for lack of a home become obsolete.”