They moved in to the new place over the 4th of July weekend, and in August they bought an adorable little chocolate lab puppy. They debated between naming him Buster and Elvis, but Buster won out. He was to be my youngest to-be-brother-in-law's dog, but over the years, we all realized that he really was my father-in-law's dog. They would "talk" to each other. Buster would often set his chin on my FIL's knee, and then do a little groan-y howl, which was reciprocated by my mostly deaf FIL. Back and forth they would go, until Buster got what he wanted.
I met Buster when he was about 12 weeks old, and the first thing I remember is how he had a love of running away. He adored being off-leash, and proved himself completely untrustworthy of sticking around his own house. His first day home, he ran right over the edge of a pool and sank. Good thing someone was there to fish him out. Granted, he was following his new little buddy, (who also happened to be his savior that day), but it sort of foreshadowed his tendency to let his heart lead the way.
This proved to be a challenge his entire life, as just last month he wandered out my back door, down the stairs, and visited our friends 6 houses down. He got there, but couldn't get back, so he just lay down and waited in the front yard until we came to get him. (My MIL once got a phone call while she was in Florida.... "Hi, we have your dog." It was my neighbor across the street! Oops.) He was on a NSAID and a narcotic for his arthritis, was on Phenobarbital for seizures, and he had benign tumors on his tail and under his belly.
But all of those things were just the physical part of Buster. The best part of Buster, what made him who he was, was just his awesomeness. People who didn't even like dogs loved Buster. He was calm, sweet, and just asked for your love and affection. And while his ulterior motive may have always been for you to give him peanut butter, he really like the pats too. Because there were three things Buster truly loved in this world. Running away, his family, and peanut butter.
Buster was a smart cookie, as he could open screen doors, knew what "Go get your peanut butter" meant, and knew the actions leading up to a car ride or a boat ride. If he saw a suitcase come out, he would sit in the front seat of the car for hours so he wouldn't be left behind. (He was the only dog I knew whose owners had to turn on the air conditioned seats in the summer because he wouldn't get out of the car!) If he saw coolers and towels, he opened the screen door and ambled down the pier to the boats. He would wait to see which boat was the chosen one that day, and then would board it and take his assigned seat in the front. Or the back, or wherever he wanted. (He was over 100lbs!)
The thing is, no one minded having Buster around. Some dogs can get annoying...they smell, or they beg for your attention, or they jump. But Buster just greeted you (albeit with a nose to the crotch) and then went on his way. If he felt he had not had a sufficient amount of peanut butter that day, he might throw his bone at your feet, (or on your lap) and give a little whine. He knew the difference between "Say please" and "Speak!". He didn't care if little kids crawled all over him, pulled his ears or tail, or stuck their fingers in his mouth. He just basked in the glow of a child's love and later gnawed on his peanut butter bone.
So today is a sad day. (Granted, the past couple of years took their toll on our old man. He moved more like an 80 year old veteran NFL player than an 11 year old pretty-well-medicated dog.) But his spirit was always there, and love always radiated from his eyes towards his people. We'll miss you Buster. We'll miss you swimming in the lake, jumping off the pontoon boat, pooping in the water (shh...don't tell anyone!!), and sneaking off to the Yacht Club or the Hayes'. We'll miss you barking to be let in the house, or out of the house, or rolling over for a belly rub or to be vacuumed. We're just going to miss you. I know you are waiting on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge for your Timmy, and while you wait you have all the peanut butter you could ever want. Rest in peace, old man.