Monday, April 21, 2008

Buddy Braveheart (Part I)

Folks will know how large your soul is by the way you treat a dog
. Charles F. Doran

Luke has asked me to tell you the story of Buddy, known affectionately to his friends as Buddy Braveheart. Here is Part One of his two part story.

Buddy, a Great Pyrenees, was born blind. As most of us know, being born blind isn’t something one grows out of. Yet, his first owners didn’t understand this. Somehow they imagined he’d grow out of his blindness, like he’d grow out of his puppy fur, his puppy teeth, his puppy breath. But Buddy was blind and that was it. You don’t lose blindness like you lose your car keys. So, when it finally dawned on his first owners that Buddy would be blind for life, that he would never see, that his needs were special, he was dumped at an animal shelter in Texarkana. This proves that, while dogs are wise, some people are not. So ended the first chapter in Buddy’s life.

Buddy was again placed for adoption. His handsome face and description were published on the web and soon an older couple came to adopt him. Despite his blindness, they had fallen in love with him and had driven all the way from Arkansas to Texarkana, to make him their own. Buddy was happily whisked away to the land of Razorbacks, Hot Springs, and Bill Clinton. Arkansas, once known as The Bear State (its first official nickname), seemed suited to a big bear of a Pyrenees, and so it looked like Buddy had found his home.

But Buddy had an odd habit. Perhaps it was because he is blind, but Buddy didn’t seem to have an appropriate sense of time. After all, to a blind dog, dark-thirty in the morning is just the same as high noon. And it turned out that 2 AM was Buddy’s favorite time to crank up into play mode. Now, for a night person this arrangement would be ideal. After all, if you’re an insomniac and it’s a choice between an endless string of inane Infomercials or a huge, playful ball of fur on legs, what would you pick? Me too! But the people who adopted him had real jobs. That meant they had to get real sleep, and that meant Buddy would have to curtail his odd schedule. Yet, despite all they did to dissuade him of his strange proclivities, Buddy continued to insist on waking them for his 2 AM playtime. So sadly, they brought him back to Texarkana, hoping he would find someone who liked playing at all hours of the night.

Along comes Diana. Despite having nine dogs of her own, she pulled him from the shelter, just in time, and gave him a home on her 12 acres. Buddy was happy, a good boy, staying close to home. He would stay within the 12 acres as long as Diana was near-by. But the 12 acres weren't totally fenced and Buddy, the loving boy he is, would try to follow Diana when she would leave for work. This too was an unworkable situation, as Diana feared something would befall Buddy should he wander off. So she was forced to find him alternative digs.

Enter Frances DeGelia. Frances, herself proudly owned by three Great Pyrenees (Humphrey, Abbey, and Big Boy), fosters dogs. Through a series of events over the next two weeks, Frances and Diana worked to get Buddy to Frances. Finally plans were set and Diana and Frances connected. Frances drove from Bryan, Texas and Diana drove from Texarkana, meeting at Centerville for the great dog delivery.

Here’s where the six degrees of separation all those who foster dogs know well – Frances knows Elin Phillips (you remember Elin from the last blog). Because Elin too fosters dogs, Buddy found himself living with Elin for about two days. Then Elin got a call from a young lady who had seen Buddy’s mug shot on a special needs web site. Most humans, shuffled from home to home, would be deeply resentful, but not Buddy. He was about to have a real home, at last.

Margot McClelland (you’ll meet her in the next blog), is a Texas A&M student. And she wanted Buddy. But Buddy needed a forever home, so Frances kept track of him, doing home visits. Yet it wasn’t even two weeks before Margot knew it was love. Buddy Braveheart had won her heart. And so he has moved in with Margot. I wonder if he still has 2 AM playtime? After all, students keep odd hours too.

I’ll be talking with Margot in the next couple of days and let you know how Buddy is doing. But it says a lot about the character of these people, Diana, Frances, Elin and now Margot, that they would go to such lengths to find Buddy the right home. And it says a lot about Buddy, that his spirit never faltered. Frances told me Buddy inspired her, thus the name Braveheart. His tail wags all the time, and while he occasionally bumps into things, he just keeps going. His special talent is his ability to listen. He tilts his head (certain to charm anyone) to zone in on where he’s heading.

Buddy’s blindness is congenital. Despite the advances in veterinary medicine, he will never see. His left socket has no eyeball at all – the right eye is the size of a pea. Yet, his life is now good. Despite (or perhaps because of) his blindness, Buddy had the patience and good sense to wait for just the right person to come along.

For a wealth of information on blind and special needs dogs, please visit:

I'd like to extend special thanks to Frances DeGelia for a great interview for this blog. A bit about Frances and her dogs before this entry ends. Frances (pictured above with Buddy, Margot, and Margot’s other – little – dog) told me of her first Great Pyrenees, Clancy. Clancy died in 2001, and I could tell by the tone in Frances' voice that he would always hold a very special place in her life. But just 10 days before he passed, another Great Pyrenees found her way to Frances. Abbey is Frances’ “Angel Dog,” finding her way to Frances just when she needed her most. Abbey literally walked up to the school and into the classroom where Frances was teaching, and invited herself into her life. Abbey then joined Humphrey, Frances’ first Great Pyrenees rescue. And now they are all joined by Big Boy, another Great Pyrenees, whose case is currently in litigation. Seems Big Boy was removed from a home over cruelty charges and Frances is trying to win permanent custody of him.

Frances has since retired from teaching students, but now reaches people in need with the aid of her dogs. Humphrey is a therapy dog who, as many therapy dogs do, works with tough cases. Frances shared one case in particular. A young woman, perhaps in her mid-thirties, had had a severe stroke, leaving her unresponsive. Nothing the hospital staff could do would elicit even the remotest response from her. A physical therapist approached Humphrey and Frances, asking if they would just visit the girl to see if Humphrey could get her to respond. Well, when they visited it was dinner time and some delicious bar-b-q escaped the tray and rolled under the hospital bed. Naturally, Humphrey took this as a cue to act, and went after the bar-b-q. (While dogs are wise about many things, they are not wise about hospital food, which apparently, despite its many objectionable traits, has a certain canine appeal.) He dove under the bed after the goodies, and the young girl, who had been totally unresponsive towards humans, thought Humphrey’s desire for hospital bar-b-q so funny, she laughed! This young girl, shut away by such a lonely affliction, was still in there after all. It simply took the uncomplicated act of a beautiful dog to bring her laugh to the surface.

One final note. How did Frances come to find out about Luke and The Boys’ journey? Serendipity (which has served The Boys well on their travels). A friend of Frances’ saw Luke and The Boys at a gas station in Hearne, Texas. She approached him for a chat. Next thing, she’s excitedly on the phone to Francis, telling her all about him, the dogs, their mission, their travels, their goal. Frances jumps in and gets involved. She’s made many connections down the road for Luke and The Boys. And just three weeks ago she’d never heard of them.

Dogs have a way of finding the people who need them.

Puppy Up!

Erich & His 4 Pack


Anonymous said...

Yeah Buddy! Buddy was adopted through Great Pyrenees Rescue Society that attended the launch party for Luke and the boys so another connection! And since that time, we placed ANOTHER blind dog.

Great Pyrenees Rescue Society

Jerry G Dawg said...

Oh I'm so hoppy that this story has a hoppy ending! Thank you for sharing this beautiful dog's story with us.