This is a love letter.
A long one.
The night I met my wife, Sue, we had a conversation about her seven cats. She told me how cats love you back and how they each have their own personality. Me, being the psychology professor that I am told her that animals do not have language and therefore don’t have rational thought and are incapable of love.
Yeah, I know.
I fell in love with Sue and we got married. Some of her boarder cats were adopted and two passed away during our courtship but three made it through to our wedding.
It was an adjustment.
My wife sometimes will state something that becomes an immutable fact. She is the least pushy person in the world—almost to a fault but there’s this one thing she does. In this case, after about a year of marriage she declared.
“I reserve the right to get a dog.”
I said “no dogs” and you can’t just state that as a fact.
Sue did not waiver and stood behind her declaration like it was “We prove that these truths be self-evident….” or something like that. Foolishly, I tried to dispute her statement which had become ingrained in her.
Sue’s Dad and Step-mom run a shelter and one day showed up with a cat and a Basset Hound named “Buddy”. I think I had let it slip that of all dog breeds, the Basset Hound, was the most appealing to me. I don’t know if I said that aloud, or Sue saw my Hush Puppies or the clipping about Hugo from the Arthur Miller book or if it was just Basset telepathy.
Sue said she wanted Buddy.
I said no.
The house got very quiet.
For a week.
That Monday Sue came home from teaching sixth grade and presented me with 25 hand written letters from her students on why Buddy should be allowed in. Sue told me he didn’t bark, he just lay around and he was perfectly housebroken.
By Saturday of the next week it dawned on me that if I ever wanted to have a conversation with my wife again I should do something.
You should know that I am not without elaborate manipulation skills and I had a plan.
“Sue, honey, I love you. You know I don’t want Buddy but if it’s that important to you then you can get him.”
The goal—get the husband points for allowing the dog but not actually get the dog.
In fifteen minutes Buddy was on my part of the couch drooling on my pillow.
Sue lied. Buddy barked—a lot. Every time one of us left the room. He peed in the house, especially if it rained and he wouldn’t let us sleep through the night. He was attached at the hip to Sue. My life would never be the same.
Now, I was the one who got quiet.
A week later while I was sulking in the basement trying to find some peace from all the barking Sue came down the stairs.
Through her tears she said.
“I’ll bring him back today.”
She turned and headed back up the stairs.
Something went through me. I didn’t know what it was but it was very, very clear. There was a voice, a feeling, hell, it might have been a spirit and it had a message.
“Hey, Schreck. Stop being an asshole.”
Before sure got to the top stair, I called to her.
“No! Buddy stays.”
Sue didn’t say “Are you sure?” She didn’t hesitate. She went up the stairs and fed the new member of our family.
My wife likes to say that things happen for a reason. Shortly after we got Buddy I got a new job at Wildwood Programs, an organization that serves people with autism and other disabilities. At Wildwood, they like it when you bring your dog to work and a couple of donors endowed a pet therapy program so you could get your dog trained for free.
Buddy passed the test and he went to work with me often.
He would threaten the life of delivery men barking like a mad dog, he stole the chief operating officers lunch and ate it, he peed on a pile of freshly delivered annual reports (my first big project of my new career) and he left a big steaming pile on the executive director’s carpet.
He also had the habit of doing something else.
He would lie down automatically when a kid came around him for belly rubs. He would lick the faces of children who would squeal or have strange involuntary movements that freak out other dogs. He would obey the commands of kids with autism like some sort of Westminster champion while still ignoring me.
The school staff told me things.
There was the teenager who never formed a relationship outside his classroom until he met Buddy who he took for windsprints. Buddy would perk up and get nuts when he saw the kid and a bond was formed. I got to be friends with the student riding Buddy’s short-legged coattails.
There were kids who behaved in school and got their work done so they could earn a trip to visit Bud.
Buddy became the mayor of the school. Because of him I got to know students. Because of him I got to learn about people with disabilities. Adults from Wildwood would take him to nursing homes where he became a big hit. Often people with disabilities never get to be in the role of helper but with Buddy they were stars.
Buddy taught me a lot. He taught to stop being an uptight jackass. He taught me that shoes, clothes and furniture are objects and not to be given importance when they are chewed through. He taught me that convenience, sleep and peace and quiet are overrated and that I ought to get over being so anal about them.
Buddy died too young. I swore that if I ever got my novels published I would try to tribute him. The books feature Al, a Basset Hound very similar to Bud. Since Buddy we’ve lived with Wilbur, Agnes (a Bloodhound), Riley (a Basset Bloodhound mix) and Roxie (a Bloodhound.) Agnes, too, died too young.
When my books came out my wife and I decided to go to waddles and sell the books and give the money to the rescue groups. Then we started to auction off chances for people to get their name or their dog’s name in upcoming books. When bids started going over $1,000 I was astounded.
What astounded me more was the love, devotion and tenacity of rescue workers. These people drive across the country to save a single dog. They put themselves in harm’s way and give up all semblance of comfort to save hounds. Talk about love and commitment.
In this book you’ll read about some of these people. There’s the paralyzed Basset Hound rescued from China, there’s the Arkansas 11 saved by ABC basset rescue, there’s House of Puddles, a place for senior Basset Hounds—all acts of love that simply blow me away.
As for me, I am, of course, a jackass. Believing that animals can’t love and give of themselves is idiotic. I am smart enough to marry a woman infinitely more intelligent and more loving than me. I’m smart enough to make friends with hound rescue people around the country (and actually the world, now) and I smart enough to listen to what my dogs have to say, which is “Stop taking yourself so seriously. Pay attention to what’s really important. Slow down and experience the tender moments. And while you’re at it—feed me!”
This book contains Duffy short stories, rescue stories, essays on hounds and the very special Haiku, or Bassetku of my friend and dog rescuer, Ginny Tata-Phillips. Ginny’s been raising money for hounds with her Haiku books for years and when I asked her to team up with me on this project she was thrilled. She’s a very cool lady—nuts, especially when it comes to hounds, but very, very cool. All of the money made from this book is going to rescue organizations—not a portion, not a percentage—all of it.
So as I said this is a love letter. It’s to Sue for using any means necessary to get Buddy. It’s to Buddy for enlightening me. It’s to everyone at Wildwood. It’s to Wilbur, Agnes, Riley and Roxie. It’s to Roxie’s namesake. It’s to the rescue people who are angels and above all, it’s to the hounds. The ones that brighten lives and the ones that will when they’re only given a chance.
ps–You can pre-order DUFFY TO THE RESCUE” ABC at www.theslobbershhoppe.com