December 14, 1999. On this cold, rainy, December night, I was walking Cody. I had been out that night, so it was a little later than usual. Right in front of my building, I saw him: a dog, alone, walking slowly down the sidewalk, his head down. I watched him for a while, to make sure he wasn't with anyone. Then I ran back to the building and called Allan on the intercom. "Get your shoes on! There's a dog down here!" Allan, surprised, hesitated. "Get your shoes on! Get down here!"
Back on the sidewalk, I didn’t see the dog. For a moment I thought I lost him, but then he appeared, coming out of an alley onto the sidewalk, maybe 20 feet ahead of me. I knelt down and opened my arms wide, breathed deeply to calm myself. I waited with my arms open – and he came right to me. By the time Allan got downstairs, the dog was in my arms.
When we got him upstairs, we saw he was ravaged. He had almost no fur, and his exposed skin was gray (a healthy dog's skin is pink). He had open sores all over his body, both his eyes were infected, he was bleeding – he was a wreck. He was wearing a collar with no tags; the tags had been clipped off with a metal cutter. While we were marveling at him, he curled up in a ball, right next to my side of the bed, and went to sleep. He's been sleeping there every night, ever since.
In that dreadful condition, and alone, on the street – and Buster never had an accident in the house, not once.
Four months earlier, our little terrier-mix Clyde had died, suddenly, breaking our hearts. Cody really needed a friend. I had just recently remarked to my sister that the next stray dog that crossed my path would be ours.
It took us a long time to get Buster healthy; for a while we thought he might not make it. But he did, and he's turned out to be an extraordinary dog. He's the most loving, loyal, affectionate and certainly most obedient dog I've ever had. He wants nothing more out of life than to love his mommy and daddy and Cody.
Our special boy. He was always anxious. For the first few months, Buster was practically attached to my ankle. He would follow me around the apartment; no matter what I was doing, he had to be right beside me. He'd lie on the cold floor, when his warm cushy mat was only a few feet away, in order to be closer to me.
I'm a huge believer in crate training - I learned that lesson long ago - and Buster loved his crate, as most dogs with separation anxiety will. So he never destroyed anything and was always housetrained. But his separation anxiety and his obsessive attachment to me wasn't healthy for him, and it would certainly complicate my life as we went along.
Then, after he was physically healthy, we found out – the hard way – that Buster is seriously aggressive with other dogs. He may have been trained to fight as a puppy, or, as our trainer thinks, used as bait for other dogs to attack. (Grrr! makes me so mad!) A combination of an irresponsible so-called trainer, my trusting that person's supposed professional opinion over my own judgement, an already-hysterical owner of another dog, and Buster's own fear and anxiety, caused Buster to attack another dog. The dog wasn't critically injured (he needed some stitches in his ear), but it was incredibly traumatic.
In trying to split up the fighting dogs, Allan was accidentally bitten. He nearly lost a piece of a finger and spent four days in the hospital. The effect on Buster and his mommy were not physical, but more long-lasting!
Since then we've been through a lot with B. He's on medication and we've done a lot of special training. (With a different trainer, of course! She's a genius and a miracle worker.) Through some painful (for me!) retraining, he learned how to relax at home; he can let me out of his sight and no longer needs his crate. Outside, we avoid other dogs, but his reactions to them are more like a normal dog's, very manageable and not scary. New dogwalkers require some special training, but any patient person who understands dogs can walk him. And although it takes him time to accept and trust people – strangers can't pet him – it only takes a few controlled meetings (complete with treats and brilliant training methods), and he will be a friend for life.
But this will only go so far. Buster can never play with other dogs or ever be off his leash outside. This used to pain me, as all our dogs have been able to run freely in the park. But I finally came to accept it. This is the best life he can have.
Buster and Cody. The amazing thing is, though Buster wants to kill every dog he sees, he adores Cody and is always sweet and gentle with her. When we found him, he was too sick to be aggressive, and while he was healing, he and Cody bonded and became family. By the time B was healthy and his aggression issues surfaced, B and Sweet Cody Brown were already in love. If we hadn't had Cody when we found Buster, Buster would never have another dog friend. Cody is his best (and only) dog friend in the world.