Buffy rolled back his upper lip and grinned. It was the collie in him. He smiled when he was excited and when our car pulled into the dooryard, he was very happy.
I loved him in spite of his lack of kindness to the feral cats. He’d sadly ended the misery for a few who had gotten in his face. I luckily had never witnessed that. This was an oversight in his upbringing that I could not reverse but, as a playmate, he was the very best. He would have given his life to protect me. This I was sure of.
When my parents ended their visit with grandma and grandpa, I would be staying. Buffy and I would have many hours to ourselves.
The chores on my grandparents’ farm, waited for no one. After a very early breakfast, I was left alone to play, while the adults did the morning milking. Sometimes, I would spend the first hour among the cows at the new milking “parlor”, but more often, opted to play with my pal and my imagination.
It is only now, that I realize how much my company meant to Buff. Unless the cows got out and he was asked to herd them back, he was overlooked. An occasional pat on the head was the most he could hope for when I wasn’t around.
The sound of house sparrows brings me back to, the two of us , sunning ourselves on the steps. The birds would flutter in the dusty driveway to ward off mites in their feathers. Buffy would lean into me so very hard as I wrapped my arms around his neck. The smell of dust, hay chaff and grease ( from lazing around beneath farm equipment) greeted my nostrils when I buried my face in his fur. A combination that would have been repugnant had it not been the smell of my pal. I’m sure that I will be moved to tears should I find the same odor again. What a bitter sweet surprise that would be.
Then off we’d go. I’d be a master dog trainer and he was my willing pupil. I made up hand signals for him to follow. I’d wave and he’d jump a bale of hay and follow a maze that I had created. It took many hours and a lot of sweat to manage the hay bales alone. But, I had all day and very friendly company by my side.
Sometimes we’d just sit in the grass on the hill overlooking the barn. Buffy would whine with pleasure as I rubbed his belly. We enjoyed the breeze that that spot always had. The squawk of red-winged blackbirds and the fragrance of phlox, each bring me right back to those moments. My grandmother’s house was surrounded with phlox of every color and the “crik” below had a marsh where the red-winged blackbirds nested.
Once in awhile, I wish Buffy could have known what it was like to be a family dog. But, It just would not have fit him somehow. He was a dog of his time. Instead of wondering “what if ?” , I’ ll cherish how we belonged to each other, back then, and shared a place and time, where we needed a pal.