On the cover of John Grogan’s best-selling book, Marley and Me is the tagline: “Life and love with the world’s worst dog.”
Well, not so fast. A lot of us feel like we’ve met the world’s worst dog. Take my former client, Buddy.
I met Buddy 17 years ago when his mom called me to inquire about my dog walking service. Buddy was a young, wild eyed Labrador Retriever. You could tell by the gleam in his expression that he was a born practical joker. I knew for sure Buddy was something special when I found him on top of the dining room table waiting for his walk.
Buddy’s Cheering Squad
I soon realized that Buddy freakishly reminded me of my childhood friend Brad. Brad was that kid who never turned down a dare. Brad once stuck his head in the toilet for the grand prize of a Tootsie Roll. He once broke his arm three times in one summer.
Buddy’s highlight reel includes once jumping directly onto my car’s engine when I opened the hood to check the oil. Another time when I was picking up another client’s dog, he managed to climb into the driver’s seat and get stuck with his back against the horn, paws pushing the seat, triggering the horn to blow.
A personal favorite of mine was the time Buddy destroyed the buffet at his owner’s wedding reception at a country club. The owner had asked me to bring him for wedding pictures but instead he ended up doing much more than posing. He pulled out of his collar, made a beeline for the food table and landed on top, where he set about inhaling the plate of roast beef. Guests screamed but that just made him scarf faster.
The wedding story is funny to me for two reasons: it wasn’t my wedding and it wasn’t my fault. However, another incident almost sent me into early retirement. After Buddy and I had known each other for about four months, Buddy found a dead rat in the dunes of the beach that allows dogs to be off leash but under voice control. I was walking six dogs that day and Buddy commenced a dog game of keep-away. He tossed it in the air, and he taunted the others to chase him, but he wouldn’t drop it. I finally loaded up the other six dogs into the car so I could focus on getting Buddy and extracting the dead rat from his mouth.
There is rarely a good time to run into a park police while dog-walking, but chasing an off leash dog holding a dead rat when a mounted policeman rides up on his horse is surely a very bad time. The cop told me, I needed to get that dog under voice control immediately. I wanted to say “No shit Sherlock” but I remained calm and explained the situation. He kept yelling “GET THAT DOG ON LEASH AND UNDER CONTROL” since at this point Buddy was running with the rat around the horse making the cop and the horse nervous. I looked back at the car to see the other dogs looking out the windows with excitement usually reserved for ringside fight fans. Clearly, in dog language, they were cheering for Buddy, their hero; “Go Buddy go! You are the man!”
At this point, Buddy ran into what we dog walkers call the “forbidden zone,” which is a fenced off area to the side of the beach. It is an area where local environmentalists have made a sanctuary for snowy plover birds. No one has ever seen a snowy plover there but I guess park managers were in the mindset of: “if we build it, they will come.”
This escalated the incident to a whole new level.
The police man was flipping his lid, shouting “GET THAT DOG NOW!” The policeman is yelling at me, I am yelling at Buddy, and Buddy is just having the time of his life. A small crowd had gathered, some were shaking their heads in disapproval and others laughing, enjoying the spectacle. Let me just say apparently the officer had not seen those signs that say “Stay calm and carry on.”
Low on options, I threw cookies at Buddy. For a brief moment, he dropped the rat, inhaled the cookies….and snatched the rat again before I could grab him. Finally after about 15 minutes of complete chaos, Buddy came close enough for me to grab his collar. I could hear the policeman saying “I am going to ticket you for that dog. He is out of control.” At this point, it was all background noise, as Buddy was in custody, but he was showing no signs whatsoever of opening his jaws and disgorging the rat. I was now imagining returning him to his mom in an hour and trying to put a happy face on the ‘show and tell’ presentation of Buddy had planned all by himself.
Suddenly Buddy dropped the rat. I put him in the car and apologized to the officer. Now relieved his horse wasn’t going to freak out and buck him off, he let me go without a ticket.
About five months after the incident, Buddy moved away. We never forgot each other because three years later, I was walking on the beach, when I was pushed from behind. I turned around and there he was my old pal Buddy. He was jumping all over me crying with excitement and I was doing the same thing! His parents finally caught up to him and told me how he spotted me from 100 yards down the beach. It was a wonderful reunion and I could see that he had not changed a bit!
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