Part 05

W

I

2014

 

We were living in Acton when Nick moved to California to try to find a job. There, he got himself a companion. A mini-Max, if you will. A Buddy. Buddy was three-years-old when Nick adopted him from a San Diego shelter. During Spring Break of my sophomore year, my dad and I flew out to see Nick and meet Buddy.

 

My brother worked at the Hilton hotel where we stayed – at a discounted rate, of course. My dad and I walked into our room to a plate of brownies and a “Welcome to San Diego” sign from my brother. I called Nick to tell him we had gotten to the room and received our surprise. Then my dad and I sat out on the balcony, looking at the Pacific Ocean and waiting to see my brother for the first time in several months.

 

There was a knock on the door. I hurried to open it, and a blur of white and brown zipped past my legs. I quickly hugged my brother then rushed over to meet Buddy. But Buddy wouldn’t stand still for more than a few seconds. Too many new people. Too many new smells. So much excitement. My brother gave Buddy a water bottle to chew on, and he finally lied down to work on it.

 

After spending just a few days with Buddy, I knew that he was attached to my brother and no one else. Nick was his best friend. That is, until Nick took Buddy and moved back to Massachusetts - and to Max.

 

***

 

I knew that Max liked Buddy. But Buddy really liked Max. Where Max lied down, Buddy lied down, his head resting on Max’s back or bottom. When Max ate, Buddy ate. Where Max looked out the window, Buddy looked out the window. Where Max peed, Buddy peed.

 

Max’s bed was in the corner of the family room next to a loveseat. He could lie in his bed and see all of us in the kitchen, cooking, at the dinner table, eating, or in various locations of the family room, resting from all the cooking and eating. The bed was the perfect size for Max. And just Max.

 

Once all the excitement of meeting Buddy settled down, Max went over to his bed and lied down. A few moments later, an uncertain Buddy snuck over to Max’s bed and wriggled his way into it with him. Max moaned, but didn’t move.

 

Max must've been annoyed. He was never the friendliest with other dogs. And he was so used to living alone. But he was letting Buddy lie with him. Why?

 

Buddy lay, in what must have been an uncomfortable position, facing the wall, motionless. If he moved, Max surely would’ve gotten up and left. But they lied there together until it was time for bed.

 

***

 

The summer Nick moved back in with us, we had a family party at my mom’s house. Naturally, my brother, Jon, his new wife, Meghan, and their dog, Penny, were in attendance. Penny is a vizsla mix – energetic and playful, but jealous and dominant.

 

Penny and Buddy were sniffing the same area of grass when Buddy got too close and Penny got aggressive. Whether she bit or scratched Buddy we don’t know, but Buddy had a deep cut on his ear, and it was bleeding heavily.

 

My brother, Jon, guilt ridden and a medical student, got some supplies out of his car and wrapped Buddy’s ear the best he could, so the bleeding would stop and Buddy wouldn’t be able to remove the dressings. When he was done Buddy slunk around the coffee table to where Max was laying, lowered his body to the rug, and rested his head on Max’s back.

 

***

 

It was a hot summer day. I had worked the morning shift as a lifeguard at the nearby Thoreau Club and came home for a shower and a nap. I walked in the door and greeted Max and Buddy, feeling a cool rush of air as I did.

 

I walked to my room, took off my sweaty clothes and threw them in the hamper. Then I noticed a pair of my gym shorts on the ground. I reached over to pick them up and saw that they had been chewed. I knew Max, who had outgrown his chewing tendencies nine years earlier, wasn’t the culprit. I grabbed my shorts, marched out to the family room, and held them up.

 

"BUDDYYY! That’s a BAD BOY. NO. BAD BOY."

 

Buddy didn’t move, but his ears dropped backwards. I walked back into my room, threw my shorts in the trash and got into the shower.

 

When I got out, I heard Max’s chain jingle as he walked into my room and laid down in his bed at the foot of my own. A few moments later, Buddy walked in with his tail between his legs and his head hanging. He looked at me only out of the corner of his eye. He slumped over to Max and curled himself inside Max, his protector. I couldn’t help but laugh. I walked over and patted them both on the head. They stayed there together while I slept.

 

Buddy looked up to Max. He actively sought Max out, and, shockingly, Max didn't shy away. After some time, I think Max was even comforted by Buddy's presence. They were true siblings. Of course they had their bouts of sibling rivalry, but they needed each other. Over time they even became more like one another.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It has been suggested that dogs living in multi-dog households form a pack much like their wolf ancestors. Researchers often talk of a hierarchy among same-household dogs. One dog is more dominant and one is more submissive. The same dog does not have to be dominant in every situation. For example, maybe Max is dominant when it comes to food, but Buddy is dominant when it comes to play.

 

But I don't see Max and Buddy's relationship as hierarchical. I see Penny and Buddy's relationship as hierarchical. I see Penny and any dog's relationship as hierarchical really. She is dominant when it comes to food - we have to hide the other dogs dishes until she is done and can be restrained. She is domainant when it coems to play - hence Buddy's poor ear. She is dominant when it comes to sleeping arrangements. But Max and Buddy were different. Their relationship was what researchers refer to as affiliative. 

 

Unfortunately, little research has been done on affiliative dog-dog relationships. It appears that it is very much not the norm. Generally, dogs, especially those of the same gender or largely differing ages, compete with one another for positions within the pack. They are competitive. So I wonder how two dogs, both rescues, both males, one old and one young found themselves to be best friends.

 

 

 

A Buddy for Max