Don and Karen's Beloved Buzz
by Don Albares
It has been 3 months or 3 years or 3 days... or just 3 minutes ago, when Karen and I lay on the floor in the vet's office, holding Buzz in between us as he took his final breath.
Buzz began his life in the most brutal environment imaginable: in a dog fighting ring just across the border in Mexico. His scars ran deep -- in his flesh and his mind and his soul. After being rescued and brought to California, he escaped his rescuer and wound up in a shelter; wounded, emaciated, infected, and without hope. He was adopted and re-surrendered 3 times that year.
You see, Buzz was an American Staffordshire Terrier, or Amstaff, one of those breeds mistakenly identified as falling under the umbrella term "pit bull" -- a term used by the ignorant to describe 7 or 8 distinctly different breeds.
Buzz was still young very powerful, and suffered from deep psychological wounds -- Canine PTSD. He was simply too much for some people to handle. Eventually he was moved to another shelter farther north where, after another failed adoption, some "expert" determined that he was beyond salvage. He was put on Death Row.
He was only 2 days from being executed when he was pulled from the shelter by an Amstaff/Pit Bull/Bully Breed rescue outfit. They fostered him to a wonderful young woman we remain friends with, and it was she who started the long, loving, complex healing process that we picked up when we adopted him.
The listing said, "House-trained, People Friendly, Child Friendly, Dog Friendly." Well three out of four isn't bad, except to find out (post-adoption) that the "dog friendly" part was dependent upon meds we were not aware of -- Prozac and Benadryl. Our vet took him off all of that, found the ruptured salivary glands (from using a choker-type rope collar/leash), etc.
We started him on healthy food, walks, and exercising with our little dogs. We began training him with 4 walks every day with love, positive reinforcement, love, pack discipline, love, teaching him that other dogs aren't a threat, love, you're safe in bed or on the couch, and... love.
Within months, Buzz went from a frightened, beaten-down victim of abuse and neglect to a confident, loving member of the family, trained to recognize my wife's anxieties and to squash them with a touch and a look -- no panic attacks ever when Buzz was present. He was truly a miracle dog... From unrecoverable fighting animal to lettered service dog and a powerful presence as a member of our pack.
One night, Buzz attacked our Lhasa Apso. Another, he attacked my wife -- each time he was totally confused and had know idea what he had just done -- it was a brain tumor, an aggression that was not a part of him.
The decision was between living with him crying for being gated off from the rest of the family while his malignancy drove him further insane, or re-homing him which would have been yet one more traumatizing abandonment, or to say goodbye to him together, while there still remained enough left of him to know he was loved, caressed and comforted, and to go to sleep in safety, with the hugs, embraces, kisses, and loving faces and comforting voices of his Mom and Dad stroking him off to sleep.
We only had Buzz for two of his 5 and a half year life, but he lived it surrounded by unconditional, deeply committed love. He filled such a huge space in our lives -- physically and psychologically, an 85 pound Amstaff is impressive by any measure.
We miss him terribly in ways we could never have anticipated, and still cannot put into words... as if some big, hairy hand entered our lives and ripped out a part of our hearts.
He is still here with us -- his absence is everywhere -- and it is a huge vacuum; like a black hole. We miss him so dearly and so painfully that we see no end to our grief.
My wife is a believer. I am not. But were a belief to come over me, it would have to begin with the myth of the Rainbow Bridge, for no one is as deserving of the paradise afterlife described there more than the souls of the never-failing, unconquerable, unconditional devotion of a dog....any dog.