Buster's Story-How we got such a Lovable Dog
One evening a few years ago, my husband and I were returning from an afternoon at a State Park. We drove up a state road and near our turn I spotted a black and white dog I thought was a Border Collie laying on the roadside. As we got closer, the dog's head popped up. I slammed on the brakes to stop and see if we might be able to help the dog. After I got out of the truck and got within six feet of him, he jumped up and dashed to the nearby farm house. I got back in the truck and pulled into the driveway of the farm. As we entered, there was a sign out front indicating it was a sheep farm. My intent was to let the farm owners know that the dog had been on the road and may be injured, but no one was home. I looked around a little to see if I could get a look at the dog, but he was nowhere in sight; so I left a note stuck on their door including my name and number.
A few days later, I went by the sheep farm on my way to a meeting. Imagine my surprise at spotting the dog lying beside the road again! Unfortunately I hadn't time to stop. After my meeting over four hours later, I was on the way home and again, the dog was beside the road. I stopped in at the farm thinking surely the dog was a valued family pet and sheepherder that was escaping his confines without them knowing. Again, no one was home so I left another note. I was highly bothered by the situation and began talking to some friends who lived on that road about the Border Collie at the sheep farm. Everyone I spoke with knew about the dog - he'd been regularly roaming freely on the roadside near the farm, scaring local drivers for at least a year! I spoke with a police officer and horse friend who lived down the road from the farm and he said that indeed, the dog had done that for a couple years. The officer said there was originally at least one other dog that also did it; but he hadn't seen that dog in a long time and assumed it had been hit by a car. My officer friend also said the people had been told regularly by the county animal warden to confine their dogs; but the dog’s owners never heeded the warnings. He went on to tell me the local animal warden was a regular visitor for the same reason – complaints about the dog roaming and lying on the roadside. I was mortified. I found it impossible to fathom someone would have a dog and allow it to run freely knowing it ran into the road all the time! I wondered how anyone could be that uncaring and irresponsible. I had to stop thinking about it before it drove me crazy; but I couldn’t.
The next week, a lady I worked with came into my office and said, "I just saw a dog I think is a Border Collie and you'll never believe where I saw it." I looked at her and knowing where she lived and the route she took, I was pretty sure what she was going to say. She said, "I saw a gorgeous black and white dog just lying on the road near Waynesville on my route from home." Yep! It was the same dog. She said that the school bus almost hit the dog in front of her that morning. I was saddened by that and decided I would drive by the place again; and keep going by regularly until I saw someone home and talked to them. A couple weeks later, I finally managed to time it right. I drove that way and sure enough, the dog was lying on the roadside again. I pulled into the driveway of the farm and there was a man, the farm owner, standing in the driveway sheering a sheep with the dog laying in the road not even 30 feet away! I got out of my truck, walked over and introduced myself then said, "I've stopped several times and no one has been home so I thought when I saw you that I'd let you know your dog has been out on the road quite a lot; and several times, I've been afraid he was hit, so I stopped. But, I guess you know he's on the road since he's there now." The man looked at me and said, "Yeah and I hope he gets hit 'cuz he's as stupid as stupid gets and I can't keep him in the yard. He keeps getting off a rope; and I can't keep him in the barn because he always finds a way out. He's not allowed in the house 'cuz he aint house-broke. Damn stupid dog. He's more trouble than he's worth; and he’s so stupid he doesn't even know his own name and won't come when he's called." I said, "Well, if you really don't like the dog and don't want him, I'd be glad to take him. I have a Border Collie at home and he'd love a friend to run and play with." The man said, "No, no. My wife won't give him away because she loves him. She thinks the world of him and she won't let him go." We ended up talking about the dog, sheep, and people in the area that we both knew for over an hour. The whole time, the dog had sidled up beside me and sat leaning against my leg with me petting him for the hour we stood chatting. I did my best to convince the man to let me have the dog, but he said it wouldn't happen. When I asked if the dog was a herder, the man said, “Him-not unless herding is chasing the sheep through the fence or watching them eat in the barn. I’m tellin’ ya, that dog’s as stupid as a dog can be. He’s got no sense and he don’t listen to anything we tell him.” I asked who’d trained him on sheep and the man said, “Trained him? Huh. No one. He’s a damn sheep dog. He’s supposed to know how to herd sheep and not need training.” There it was-they just assumed the dog should automatically know everything without ever teaching him anything. I thought it was pretty clear where the real stupidity was after that, and I didn’t think it was the dog that was so stupid.
The man took my business card because I'd said I'd like to have some fleeces when he did more sheering. I really figured I'd never hear from him again; and the next time I'd hear about the dog would be that he was hit by a car. I was saddened as I left the farm knowing that such a sweet dog was obviously not being cared for and not really well-loved or they'd find a way to train him and confine him from the road. I thought, “It’s a farm for gosh sakes! Can't you spare a little time and effort to build the dog a kennel?! You people are the stupid ones-not the dog!"
I went home and ranted about the situation for weeks. I even tried to figure out ways I could just take the dog. Since he was always outside and often by the road, it would be easy enough to scoop him up and keep going. Brian (my husband) wouldn't let me. He said stealing the dog was as wrong as neglecting him. Finally, I conceded that it was one I couldn't rescue and we already had two dogs in our small ranch home anyway. I let it go thinking how sad to know the dog would likely die on the road.
Eight weeks later, on a Sunday night at 9:30, I got a phone call. It was the man from the sheep farm. He said, "When you offered to take my dog, did you mean it?" I admit, I was taken by surprise so I hesitated, wondering what had happened and how I should answer, but I said, "Yes! I did mean it at the time." He said, "Well, my wife and I discussed it and it's time we let the dog go to someone else who wants him. We're retired and we're showing our sheep all over the country. That dog's so stupid he don't know his own name, but she loves him. Thing is, we aren't home much and we can't really take care of the dog. She said if you really want the dog to come and get him." I was a bit stunned and wondered what really happened to change their minds, but at the same time, it was the chance to get the dog and get him off the road! I said, "Well, I'm not really able to come right now, but I can come tomorrow." He said, "You come tomorrow at 5:00 p.m. and you can have the dog." I agreed. I got off the phone and told Brian and he said, "Can't you go get him now, before they change their mind?!" It was Sunday night and I was not going to get dressed to get the dog so late.
I went to work Monday morning and all day long, I prayed the dog would stay safe long enough for me to get him. My prayer was, "Dear God, please keep that dog off the road and keep him safe until I get him. It wouldn't be right if he gets hit by a car today, just when I'm going to go get him." All day, I kept saying that prayer and finally, mid-afternoon, my boss said, "Go on and get out of here and go get that dog before you drive us all crazy! We sure don’t want the school bus to run over him before you can get there!" So, I left early to get the dog. I stopped by my veterinarian's office on the way to discuss getting the dog straight to them for a physical and check-up to be sure he wasn't sick with something before I brought him home to be with my dogs. The vets were very supportive and offered to wait at the end of their day for me to bring the dog in after hours. Off to the farm I went to get the dog!
I arrived at the farm to pick up "the dog." It dawned on me that the man never called the dog by any name except, "the dog or stupid dog." The first thing I needed was the dog's name! As I approached the door, the woman came out and greeted me but the man wasn’t home. At that time, the dog got up and I noticed he was on a chain! Interesting they'd put him on a chain then, but never before. The first thing the woman did was tell me how painful it was to let the dog go. She was a petite, older woman. She walked over to him and patted herself on her chest in a gesture suggesting the dog jump up on her and when he did, she got angry at him and shoved him off while saying how badly mannered he was. Clearly the dog was a victim of inconsistency and confusing messages, but I said nothing. We talked about the dog because I had questions: “What's the dog's name? Buster, but he doesn't know it very well. How old is he? He's about three or four years old. His birthday is February-I think the 14th or 15th. We got him from a breeder down around Springboro or Lebanon and we got a couple pups. His sister ran away so much that the neighbors kept her; and his brother got hit on the road out front about a year ago. When did he have his last shots and veterinary exam? Oh, we never bothered with shots and exams. He never leaves the farm so there's no point to spending money on shots he doesn't need or going to the vet if he's not hurt. Has he been neutered? Oh heavens no. We never saw a need to do that to him-it’s not right or natural. Has he been house trained or crate trained? Honey, he's a farm dog not a foo-foo dog. He's not allowed in the house and he doesn't have a crate. He'd probably pee all over everything if I let him in the house.” Finally, after I played the question and answer game for about 40 minutes, I was sure I was doing the right thing by taking the dog because clearly the people had never given the dog as much attention as their sheep. At least they groomed the sheep!
It took two seconds for the dog, "Buster," and I to make up to each other. He was a wild boy, without training of any kind, but he obviously had a big heart. I got him on a collar and leash and he willingly went to the truck with me. The woman walked over with us and said he'd never been put in a car or truck so she doubted I'd get him in. At a VERY wiggly 56 pounds, when I picked him up it was like putting an octopus in a jar-his legs everywhere but where I needed them! I got him in the truck and he went to the opposite seat and sat down. I got in the truck and knew I was about to have an "adventure in dog rescuing 101." We headed straight to the veterinary clinic. The drive was challenging because Buster was all over the seat, including trying to get in my lap. I finally got hold of his collar and held him on the seat at arm’s length. When we got to the vet's office, he was already a different dog! He'd already settled down a little and seemed to sense things were about to change. We got out of the truck and ran into the vet clinic. Everyone in the clinic had stayed to see my new "rescue dog." We went into the exam room and I was prepared to muzzle and/or sedate Buster since he'd never experienced anything we were about to do to him. I always give dogs or children an opportunity to behave well before assuming they won't, but I was prepared for the worst. Buster hopped onto the exam table and sat quite nicely. He allowed everyone to poke and prod, draw blood, get a fecal sample; and he got three shots without a moment of hesitation or questionable behavior! It was as if he somehow knew everything we were doing was okay. He was golden! We got a glowing report of good health. My vet walked us out and said, "You know, Border Collies and Corgis are NOT the easiest dogs to handle and they're not always as nice as yours. Only you could rescue a dog like this and have him behave so well in an unknown situation within an hour of getting him. I expect he'll be part of the Redmon family and we'll be looking forward to seeing him regularly from now on." I said, Yep! You'll be seeing him in about a month to neuter him if we keep him. I'm hopeful another Border Collie savvy friend will give him a great farm home. She laughed and said, "I'll see you in a few weeks because that dog is going to his forever home right now, mark my words." As we went to the truck, I wasn't looking forward to the octopus in the jar routine again. He had to get in the truck and I was ready to put him there. To my great surprise, I opened the truck door, patted the seat and said, "Buster, jump!" Buster jumped right into the truck with great ease! I thought, “No more octopus in the jar episodes! The dog can at least get in my truck already! And those people said he's stupid-HA! He already knows how to jump on the Vet’s table and into my truck!”
Once we left the vet's office, it dawned on me that I'd need a much larger crate than any of my spare crates. A Corgi sized crate wasn't going to work and my larger crates weren’t large enough either. I called a friend who has BIG dogs (Shepherds, Rottweilers & Great Danes) and said, "Hey, that dog I just picked up is too big for any of my crates. Do you have a crate I can borrow for a few days?" Off to my friend's from the vet's office to get Buster a crate before going home. We picked up a wire Rottweiler crate and I unloaded it before unloading Buster. I set it up in the kitchen because it has access to the back door, out into our back yard. The introductions between Buster and Gilley were a piece of cake! Gilley was happy to meet Buster and immediately wanted to play.
Buster had never been in a truck, house, or crate in his life and he was three or four years old. I was very quick to catch him on his only move to pee on anything that he ever made-got him out the door quick and averted a mess. That "stupid dog" NEVER had ANY accidents in the house! He literally learned to go outside within two brief training moments on the first night. He figured out house training in one night so how stupid is that?! It came time to crate him for the night and I dreaded it. Since he hadn’t been in a house before, I didn’t want to have him loose all night. I'd set up the wire crate and draped a sheet over it so it would seem more private and less distracting for him. Amazingly, I baited him in the crate with a liver treat and he went right in. He never made any fuss-just laid down and went to sleep. We call the dog's crates their "house" and when we want the dogs in their crates we say, "Go to your house." Buster learned, “go to your house” in two days; and he NEVER tried to avoid it or fuss about it-he went very willingly.
Within a week, Buster learned to get in/out of my truck, house-training, crate-training, and walking on lead, recall; learned the feeding routine; and learned that he was in a place where he was part of the family. He learned to let me do his nails, get baths, and go places. He's not a perfect dog and he has some quirks, but he's learned a lot for a "stupid dog." We call him “Buzz” because I hate the name “Buster” and because he’s about as subtle as a buzz saw when he’s intent about something he wants to do (like playing, going outside, or going for rides in the truck).
When I was laid up from knee replacement surgery, Gilley was always at my side and Buster was on the other side. When I'm home alone, Buster is my protector, barking his big dog bark at anyone who dares enter our space. He hasn't been as easy to teach as many things as Gilley, but he does pretty well. Buster has an amazing heart and he doesn't know a stranger. Buster has become a fixture in our lives. He is absolutely obsessed with Gilley and won't go outside without waiting for Gilley in the doorway until Gilley goes with him. He hates being separated from Gilley at all. Gilley doesn't mind being separated but Gilley was raised as my co-pilot and didn't have other dog pals like him for his first three years of life.
For a long time, we joked that it would be funny if Gilley and Buster were really brothers-being such different types, sizes, & personalities would've made that odd. After all, maybe it was only coincidence, but their birthdays are on or near the same day in February and they came from a breeder in or near Springboro, near where we got Gilley. You'd have thought that would've been enough of a coincidence for me to ask Gilley's breeder about it. I never really gave it a lot of thought, but Brian and I joked about it many times. Finally, after three years, I was looking at some dogs online because I was curious about some of Gilley's lineage. Finally, I landed on a site of someone about whom I'd heard about but didn't actually know in the Lebanon/Springboro area. On her site was a dog that looked so much like Buster that I was mesmerized. I must've stared at that dog's picture for hours before I finally contacted the owner and asked her if it might be possible that our Buster could have come from her or someone she knew. Things sort of took an exciting turn. She asked another friend and Border Collie breeder if the dog might be one of hers and between them, with the information I supplied, they figured out that Buster actually came from the same breeder from whom we'd gotten Gilley! Buster really IS related to the dog whose picture mesmerized me–it was Buster's grandsire! I knew it was too similar to be mere coincidence! We finally had to tell Gilley that he and Buster are actually related and it's not really just a joke. Gilley of course has no clue, but then again, maybe he does! If I'd just thought to ask around a little when we got Buster, the mystery of where he came from originally might've been solved within a couple weeks instead of three years. Another ironic piece of that story is that my Buster is the son of one of the dogs I really liked a lot at Gilley’s breeder’s-"Lenny." When we got Gilley, I really thought about asking the breeder when she might have pups from Lenny, but I got Gilley and saw no need for another dog. I've never regretted getting Gilley for an instant but now, I have a dog from Lenny too! How lucky could I get?! Does anyone get lucky enough to rescue a dog and end up with exactly the kind of dog AND the bloodlines they wanted? I did! It was meant to be and you'll never convince me otherwise! It turns out that Buster is a year older than Gilley and their birthdays are within a day of each other in February. We celebrate their birthdays on the same day and give them both special treats.
As a post-script: I found out from my police officer friend a few months after I got Buster that the reason Buster's original owners called me when they did was prompted by another ticket he issued them citing the dog on the road as hazard; and he’d called the animal warden to come out again. The animal warden went out and they were forced to pay a fine and told that if the dog wasn't properly confined, he would be taken from them and they'd have to appear in court and pay another fine. My officer friend presumes that's when they called me to pick Buzz up because the dog vanished.
That's Buster's Story- the story of how we ended up with such a wonderful, lovable dog. We truly can’t imagine our lives without him now that we’ve had him almost five years. He’s about to turn nine years old this year. He reminds us every day that hope, love and prayer have the power to change everything.
Update as of February 23, 2018:
Buster is now deceased as of February 9, 2018. He’d had a minor heart murmur when we got him. As he aged, his heart murmur became more significant but wasn’t a problem. However, late last fall in November, Buzz began coughing and having some trouble breathing harder. The cough quickly became annoying for him and us, so off to the vet. I was already fairly sure that he was starting to have heart trouble. The vet quickly determined that indeed, Buzz had begun the stages of congestive heart failure. We played 20 questions about it and arrived at putting him on meds and living each day as though it could be his last-because it probably would be within 8-10 months or less.
Buzz always loved lights and shadows. He loved to stalk a laser light and just watch it. He never tried to catch it or bite at it, he just loved to look at it and follow it. We named his laser light, “Tink” after Tinkerbell the fairy. He loved any lights and shadows so Christmas was filled with fun for him, lying on the floor in front of the Christmas tree to watch the lights twinkle and the shadows dance. He loved all the lights of Christmas. Since we got Cinder (our four year old BC), we hadn’t put up a large Christmas tree because we don’t have much room; and the dogs love to play ball and other games in the house, which jeopardizes a Christmas tree and anything else in our small living room. We’d used tabletop trees, which also mesmerized Buzz. But, knowing how much he loved the big, light-filled Christmas trees of the past, we made a point to have a big Christmas tree just for him since we knew it would be his last. I’m so glad we did, because he totally enjoyed it-and it really was HIS Christmas tree.
Buzz seemed to do well on his meds initially, but suddenly in the first week of February, he took a sudden turn for the worst. It came on hard and fast. He was miserable – and for such a happy dog to show any sign of discomfort it's bad; and we knew he wasn’t going to last much longer. With Buzz being elderly at 15 years old, with arthritis and a bad heart, our plan was to keep him comfortable as long as possible, but when his quality of life got bad, let him go. We knew that he would somehow reveal when it was his time to go.
On the morning of February 9th, I'd been awake with him all night. He'd felt pretty miserable and all I could do was try to keep him comfortable until the clinic opened. Sometimes you start second guessing things, wondering if you're doing the right thing when you make that final decision. Buzz made it easy to know that it was his time. Getting him in the van to go was a chore-something he loved any other time was not in his power. We had to lift him in. Instead of his happy, excited barking that was usually part of every ride and part of his charm, he layed on the seat, quiet and still the whole trip to the clinic. That clinched it. He couldn't even enjoy a ride in the van. When we arrived, our vet made everything as easy and pleasant as possible. We stayed and loved on him until the very end. It was the most difficult thing to watch this last year-Buzz aging and declining until being overcome by a bad heart. My boy that was so incredibly full of life and love drifted off to sleep...and he was gone.
His birthday was always celebrated on February 14th. Aside from his breeder telling us his birthday was either February 14th or 15th, Gilley's is on February 15th. Add that he was so loving and such a big hearted dog, Valentine's Day was truly appropriate for his birthday. He left us five days before his birthday.
After a lifetime raising, training, competing and living with dogs, I’ve lost many over my years. Losing Buzz was the hardest one I’ve endured in my life. I miss him more than any other dog I’ve ever had and it’s been shocking to me. I love all my dogs, so I’m not sure what’s been so much harder about losing Buzz, but it’s been horrible. He’s not suffering and I’m very glad of that; but I’m very upset he’s gone.
Buzz gone, it’s amazing how much quieter the house and life is without him. Even with our other two dogs, both very loved BC’s, life is very different without him. He was always such a happy-go-lucky dog that truly loved life if all we did was hang around the house or if we went out and worked on the farm or went somewhere on some kind of adventure. He didn’t care what we did so long as he was part of it all. He was a rare boy.
I often think back to when we got him. How his previous people thought he was a "stupid dog." I remember that all he did was soak up everything we tried to teach him in those first six months. He learned very quickly and easily. He'd become a great obedience dog; a good farm dog with a fantastic recall (especially for a dog so stupid he didn't even know his name); a good therapy dog; and the best general companion dog to our other dogs and to us. Buzz was a good "uncle" to Cinder, helping raise her and teach her many things. He was ever so patient and sweet with her-even when she was a very bratty puppy to him sometimes. I will never forget how he let her drag him across the floor by his tail so many times without ever getting irritated or correcting her. But, when he had enough, he'd just lay on his bed...and a puppy curled up with him. He became my sidekick and my night time companion, often sharing a cup of yogurt while snuggling together to watch TV into the wee hours of the mornings. For a stupid dog, he was nothing short of damn smart and ultra sweet. Ha ha you nasty people who thought him stupid! You sure didn't know what a treasure you had and I'm glad, because I did!I still drive by the sheep farm where I got him. I’ve often thought I’d love to have shown them just how smart THEIR “stupid dog” really was; and then let them know it was they who were so stupid and not Buzz. But, people like them don’t care; and it was to our benefit we got Buzz. After all, he really was NOT stupid, but thinking he was stupid gave them cause to give him to us. That turned out to be the greatest gift we’ve had in the last 18 years. Originally I set out to rescue Buzz, but I think he really rescued us. He was a truly wonderful dog and not the least bit stupid at all.