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My Sunshine, Buddy

Honoring my sweet boy and the love we shared

In May of 2015 I made a trip to the county animal control shelter. I was ready to give fostering a try. I met with three dogs, each were special in their own way, but one stood out.


He had come to live in the shelter after being kept outside by his previous humans. From what I understand he didn’t have it easy. It was apparent his time was spent living outdoors and was filled with unpleasant human interactions. This rough start to his life didn’t diminish the love he was capable of sharing. I knew he would bring joy to anyone who gave him a chance, he just needed guidance and a little time to adjust to family life. With that knowledge, Buddy became our new foster dog.

I gave him the life I knew he deserved. One filled with safety and security, meals and yummy treats, comfort and love. He quickly claimed a warm cozy spot in bed beside me, and my heart. After ten months of being Buddy’s foster mom I received news that an application was submitted to adopt him. I knew this was the goal for him, and he deserved a loving forever home. But I just couldn’t imagine him leaving me. I decided to make it official and adopted Buddy.

Like a lot of rescues, we weren’t sure of his exact age, but he was probably around one and half or two years old when we brought him home. He loved lying in the sun as it beamed through the windows on the backside of our house. He purposefully looked for small patches of sunshine to lay in and warm his face, it was adorable. I couldn’t help but smile when I looked at him lounging in the warmth of the sun. "Sunshine" became my special nickname for him. In the mornings I would say "Morning Sunshine!" or when greeting him around the house it was "Hi Sunshine!"

Buddy was special, he was a happy ray of sunshine. There was a warmth inside my heart when I looked at him and he had a special light about him. He was caring and considerate for those around him. He always waited until I was settled under the blankets before jumping into bed beside me. After he knew I was in my spot he would settle into the bend behind my legs and rest his head on my ankles. He would make room for the other boys if they wanted to join us on the couch. He would curl his body tight to minimize the space he occupied all the while maintaining a cozy closeness. Buddy enjoyed being close to me and his dog brothers. He was a love bug.

We all had a friend in Buddy. He was the one who was everyone’s buddy. So, his name fit him so well. He would play when prompted by Max, protect Meatball when needed and nap in bed with Aero. He loved everyone and they loved him. Buddy was the best boy. He loved the freedom of our big backyard as well, making his rounds daily. He loved chasing the squirrels, bunnies and birds, it was a game he only won once.

Buddy fit into our family perfectly. Thinking about the day I brought him home; he was nervous but so happy. He knew things were going to change for him. I didn't realize how much he would change my life. I am so grateful that he was there that day and that I was ready to foster that day. The years went by quickly, too quickly, and I never imagined he’d have to leave me so soon.

In early January of 2024, Buddy had a routine visit with his vet. There weren’t any concerns noted except for a lipoma that could be removed with a simple surgery. This didn’t raise any red flags and it was painless for him. There also didn’t seem to be any urgency to scheduling a surgery date as I didn’t hear back from the vet’s office right away.

In retrospect, there were signs that something was off. I remember Buddy acting differently around bedtime. At times he seemed hesitant to jump up and join us in bed, which was a little unusual. When he did, he wouldn’t assume his usual spot but instead insisted on being the ‘pickle in the middle.’ The middle spot was almost always claimed by Max. Buddy also wouldn’t stay the entire night in our bed, occasionally opting to leave and lay across the hall under Aero’s bed.

On a few occasions I noticed Buddy looking at things I could not see, perhaps alerted by a sound I also could not hear. We all know that dogs have superior senses to humans and there are countless stories from dog owners who believe their pets have seen paranormal entities. Buddy’s behavior struck me as strange, so I decided to cleanse the house by burning sage, hoping this might help him. He had never given me reason to doubt him, why should I start now? Now I think he may have been feeling different sensations and did not know how to respond.

As the days passed, Buddy became increasingly affectionate. He would cuddle with me any chance he got. He wanted to be next to me as much as possible. More than usual he opted to lay beside me in bed, even sharing my pillow. Buddy began sleeping between my husband, Bill, and I more often. One evening, Max had already claimed the middle and Buddy squeezed his way in-between us. He was determined to be close to me. I am happy he came to me for comfort, support and love. We were always patient and kind to him, knowing something wasn’t quite right.

January continued on much the same, until Friday the 19th. It snowed that day, and we couldn’t pass up an opportunity to play in it. Bill and I went outside with Autumn, Cassie and Bay and our grandson, Aero, Buddy, Max and Meatball. Sledding and playing in the snow in the backyard. There was a lot of excitement and I was forced to step in when Max became too rowdy with Buddy. I’m sure Buddy knew I would always protect him from anything and everything.

The next day Buddy was having trouble with his back leg, it looked as though it was giving out on him when he tried taking a few steps. He laid down and was favoring the left side and looked dizzy. I was so worried about him as his eyes were staring off and he just didn’t look right. Buddy rested his head on Bill’s foot, and he gave him some pets on his cheek. Bill thought that Buddy’s eyes looked very scared. My worry turned to concern; I thought I was going to lose him.

After about forty minutes of Buddy lying still, he got up and headed to his water bowl. He took a long drink and I thought he was drinking more than usual. Buddy didn’t have much of an appetite that evening and didn’t eat his dinner until late. Although he was up and moving around, I was still worried about him, he was exhausted and wanted to be close to me. I chose to sleep on the couch that night to be near him in case he needed me. His veterinarian advised me to make an appointment for Monday and if he had another episode to take him to an emergency vet.

On Monday, Buddy seemed to be doing well until he went out back to do his usual rounds in the yard. When he was coming back up the hill, he became too tired to make it all the way and laid down to rest. I joined him in the yard helping him make his way back inside. I patiently waited by his side each time he needed a break. When we arrived at the vet visit later that afternoon, I explained the events that took place over the weekend. Chest x-rays were recommended and I had them taken that day. The results were less than favorable, showing spots on Buddy’s lungs and fluid around his heart. After having Buddy’s x-rays reviewed by a radiologist, I was informed that the spots on his lungs were possibly malignant. The next step was to have an ultrasound to further diagnose his condition.

The news was devasting, but I held out hope that further testing would exclude cancer. I spent the night on the couch again with Buddy, not wanting him to be alone. I love him so much and I didn’t want to miss a moment with him. Aero and Max could sense Buddy needed rest and they were very calm that night. I made sure to tell Buddy how much I loved him and he would forever be my good boy. I let him know that it was okay if he wanted to rest. I traced a cross on his forehead and kissed him goodnight.

He never let on that he was in any pain, but I knew he wasn’t himself. The stress from worrying about my sweet boy was making me physically ill. I had no appetite. My stomach ached and my muscles trembled. I was overwhelmed with sadness, sobbing so hard I would shake. I felt helpless. I shared with a co-worker about my fears of something happening to him. As I cried uncontrollably, I asked her “What do I do?” Her kindness came through in her reply “Just comfort him”. I knew that but maybe needed to hear it. Bill was home with Buddy during the morning when I went to work so he was not alone. I worked less hours and would hurry home at the end of each day, not wanting to miss one gaze at him, one soft touch or one more kiss I could give him.

I really struggled with my thoughts. I couldn’t process what was happening and I couldn’t control my physical response to my grief. I was so worried about something happening to Buddy and me not responding to it correctly if it happened when I was present. What if I did the wrong thing? What if I wasn’t able to help him? What if he was alone when something happened? Would he know I cared and loved him? I can’t remember feeling that sad and helpless about anything else. I more than cried, I sobbed uncontrollably.

Wednesday evening I took Max and Buddy outside before bed. I wanted Buddy to enjoy the fresh cool air and hoped it would make him feel better. We took our time walking around the yard, resting and laying down when he needed to. He seemed content just smelling the smells as they passed, listening to the nighttime noises and laying in the grassy patches between the snow. I watched him for a long time, he was such a handsome boy. We spent about an hour outside together. I had no idea this was going to be our last night.

I spent the nights this week in the living room petting Buddy, holding his paw and reassuring him of my love. I just stared at him, love pouring from me to him. We laid together on the couch, he wanted to be close, I assured him I was there and that I loved him so very much. Wednesday night he was more comfortable on the floor than the couch. He lay on the floor between Max and I, wanting to be near us. I moved to the floor to be with him. I wanted to show him the love, compassion and care my angel deserved. He would get up to get a drink but would always return to my side. His breathing was shallow, nose breathing. I could see he was uncomfortable and gave him a pillow to rest his head on. He was sweet and thankful and rested on the pillow occasionally. We loved each other equally, I know that for sure.

Thursday, January 25th 2024. Today would be one of the hardest and saddest days of my life.

8am: Before heading to the vet for more testing, Buddy and I lingered on the front lawn. I gave him all the time he wanted to potty or to just lay in the grass. I never expected this to be the last time we would go out together. Like many times before Buddy rode comfortably in the back seat, he was a good car rider and always the best boy. The plan was to drop him off and the ultrasound tech would come to the office when her schedule permitted to do the procedure. I couldn’t bear thinking he would be in the vet office in a cage waiting all alone. Nothing was more important than Buddy and his comfort today and something told me to stay. I waited in the car with him rather than drop him off. I sat in the back seat with him petting and talking to him, making sure he knew how much he was loved. I’m so grateful I did as I had no way of knowing this would be our final hours together.

It was 10:15am when they were ready for Buddy. I gave him another kiss before releasing him to the vet tech for his ultrasound. I headed out for a cup of tea while I waited and it wasn’t long before I received a call to come back. I was close and returned within minutes. The doctor informed me that the chest ultrasound did not look good, there was too much fluid around his heart for her to proceed with the abdomen ultrasound as planned. She feared he would not survive it and recommended I take Buddy to the emergency vet in Annapolis right away.

10:40am: I paused in the lobby to inform Bill of our plan to head to the E.R. as they brought Buddy out to me. He was exhausted as we exited the vet’s office. Despite being visibly tired, Buddy remained strong and brave and I channeled some of his bravery. The drive felt like it took forever, traffic slowed and my worry increased. Buddy was calm and peaceful showing no signs of pain or worry. He was amazing as always. I prayed for my sunshine to be ok.

We arrived at the emergency vet and I quickly checked in. I was flustered from the adrenaline pumping through me. Still, Buddy remained calm. He slowly made his way with little help into the office and after one last kiss he followed the tech into the triage area. With Buddy in professional hands, I turned to complete the intake forms, a wave of anxiety was threatening to engulf me. At that moment Bill entered the clinic. He had come to support me. The tears flooded from me as I handed him the paperwork, I needed his help. There were a lot of forms and it was hard to focus on them. Checking off the DNR box was the most difficult and beyond heartbreaking. I couldn’t help but fall apart. I drew a small heart next to it, I think to signify how much I loved him and the heartbreak I was feeling. I thought this was going to be a surgery to drain fluid, it quickly turned into a nightmare situation.

Bill and I met with the veterinarian caring for Buddy and went over our treatment options. Knowing now that the spots on Buddy’s lungs were most likely metastatic cancer meant that the chances were high cancer masses were elsewhere. Buddy’s life could be extended a little by draining the fluid from around his heart to give the doctors time to locate the cancer and begin treatment. The doctor also discussed with us the option of euthanasia.

This was the worst possible outcome for today. I sobbed, I felt sick, I felt like my heart was being torn from my chest. How was I supposed to make such a decision? What would Buddy choose if he were able to?

The doctor was kind and said she could see how much we loved Buddy and he was our baby. She gave us a moment to talk things over. Bill and I made our decision, we would go through with the fluid draining surgery. The veterinarian was very compassionate, she had a tear in the corner of her eye, and she asked if we would like to give him a kiss before Buddy went in for surgery. I of course said “Yes”. We went back to see him while he was being attended to by the vet techs. I gave him kisses and told him it would be ok if it was time to rest. Once again, I traced a cross on his forehead and placed a kiss in the middle. Through my tears I said my goodbye holding Buddy’s face with both hands, letting him know I loved him and would love him forever. Bill approached to say his goodbye, Buddy now knew we were both there for him.

We retreated to the privacy of the exam room to wait. The doctor returned, she told us Buddy was showing signs of cardiac arrest and he wasn’t likely to survive the surgery. Now would be the time to euthanize. My heart broke with her words, I couldn’t believe it. How could this be? I felt sick to my stomach. We reluctantly agreed, and the doctor prepared to bring Buddy into the room.

11:40am: The doctor left the room to bring Buddy back to us. I went into the bathroom, I was certain I would be ill. On my way out I noticed a tech met the vet just outside the door. I hurried back and when I returned Bill was crying. The tech had come to say that Buddy had passed away. It was less than three minutes from the time we said goodbye and we loved him until the time he passed.

My sweet boy was gone. I was devastated.

There are no words strong enough to explain the kind of sadness I felt. Devastation, heartbreak, despair. They come close, but it’s so much more than that.

I remembered an article I stumbled upon earlier in the week. One that said a dog chooses when he departs, and who will be with him at the end. That they do not feel the same about the physical body as we do. How the spirit prepares to leaves the body at the end. This helped me find peace. He was my protector just as much as I was his. He protected me until the end. He passed in the care of professionals, who knew the signs and how to best react. We were able to say our final goodbyes and he knew I had Bill there with me now and it was ok to go. He was an amazing boy. He will always be with me and I have no doubt about our bond.

Bill broke from routine that evening and went out on a weeknight. I needed time to process everything and time to grieve alone. I settled on the couch where Buddy would always lay with me and watched T.V. I came across a spiritual show talking about the afterlife. I paused and watched for a bit. When I thought I had my fill of the show I changed to the next channel only to be met with the same exact show. I was meant to keep watching and listening. I believe this was a sign from Buddy that there is something more and I didn’t need to be so sad. He left the physical world but he would never leave me.

The following day the sky was full of clouds when I let Aero and Max outside as usual. I stepped outside with them today and was met with rays of sunshine breaking through the gloom. The sunlight beamed through the trees in the shape of a heart. It was My Sunshine letting me know he was alright, and his light was still bright.

I feel such sorrow not having Buddy physically in my life any longer. Sad I won’t see his sweet smiley face and his wiggly tail. That my love bug won’t greet me at the top of the stairs. I’ll miss his snuggles and kisses. He was so special to me. I miss him so much. I am happy I have so many memories and photos of him. His exuberance and love were naturally overflowing. When I took pictures of Buddy I was always trying to capture his joy and pure love I felt for him.

Tuesday, January 30th 2024. Tonight I sat at my computer to look through all the photos of his my sweet boy to have some printed. I stepped away for a moment and when I returned and woke my computer, the screen saver had switched to a beautiful sunshine. My Sunshine was letting me know he was with me. A few minutes later there was a knock at the door and a delivery person handed Bill a package. Buddy’s ashes arrived home.

My sweet boy was home.

In the days following Buddy’s passing, I felt a peacefulness. I miss him terribly but am eternally grateful for the time we shared together. I can’t help but smile when I remember his sweet angel face and pure heart. I know he’s at peace too, sending me signs he’s with me, forever My Sunshine.

I will love you forever Buddy

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