by Harriet E. Michael
They say a really great dog may only come around once in a lifetime. In my life, Buckles was that dog. He was a brown English Field Cocker. My husband drove to Chicago to get him when he was just a pup. He was the runt of the liter, the leftover puppy, the one nobody else wanted. The first time I laid eyes on him, I thought he was either the most beautiful pup I had ever seen or the ugliest—and I wasn’t sure which. He looked a little like a baby cow. But soon it became clear to me that he was indeed beautiful! So much so, that in the years that followed, people always commented on how striking he was.
But the best thing about him was his personality. He was gentle, loving, obedient, and completely non aggressive with children or anyone. But when he got out in a field hunting with my husband, he was a great retriever—aggressive, obedient, faithful and worked tirelessly.
My husband’s high school friend and hunting buddy, Jim, liked Buckles so much he made the trip to Chicago to get an English Field Cocker for himself. She’s solid black and named Ziggy. One of Jim’s reasons for getting a female was to someday get a puppy out of Buckles.
That is where we ran into trouble. For reasons unknown to us, Ziggy and Buckles were not able to conceive. Over a period of four years, at every possible opportunity the dogs were put together hoping Ziggy would get pregnant–but to no avail.
Ziggy was getting older and Buckles was quite old, so in desperation, Jim took the dogs to a vet and had Ziggy artificially inseminated by Buckles. And that is how at eleven years old, Buckles became a father and we were given our pick of the liter.
Buckles and Colt (father and son)
Each time we went to Jim’s house to look at the pups, I was, of course, hoping to find one just like Buckles. There were no brown pups–only solid black ones and white with black spots, so I had to judge by their personalities. The personality was more important to me anyway. My husband wanted a male and there were four possibilities. The first time we were there, when the pups were only a few weeks old, one little solid black male kept wagging his tail. I picked him up and he immediately stretched his little neck to try and nuzzle against me–something Buckles did!
“Look!” I exclaimed pointing to the mannerism we both knew so well. My husband took the pup out of my arms and held him up, placing the pup’s nose against his nose. The little guy’s tail wagged a mile a minute. I laughed and took him back. Holding him to my nose, I told my husband to look at his tail. Then we held each of the other male pups and none had either mannerism–none tried to nuzzle and none wagged their tails when held up to our noses.
On the next visit, this same little black male came running to us, wagging his whole body. Again, I laughed. Because, again, this was a Buckles’ characteristic. Buckles was double jointed and when he wagged his tail, which he did most of the time, it looked like his back legs had come unhooked from his body and the whole back part of him would move back and forth vigorously.
It only took two visits to know which pup was most like his father in personality, and that’s the one we wanted! We have not been disappointed. He is laid back, sweet-natured, gentle, and loving–just like the old man.
A couple of Christmases ago, we had one very old, very sweet, brown dog who we have loved completely for going on twelve years and one small, active, happy, precious pup running circles around his dad. On Christmas Eve when I saw that adorable puppy running to my husband with a chewed string of lights in his mouth, bringing it to him and proudly dropping it at his master’s feet, like a faithful retriever should, I didn’t even get annoyed with him. Instead, I laughed and thought how blessed we were to have one of Buckles’ pups running around our house, chewing up our Christmas lights.
They say a really great dog may only come around once in life … but then again, they may be wrong!
Writing Prompt: What was your favorite pet in your lifetime? What made him or her special?