Monday, April 21, 2014

Tribute to Butch

The year was 2004. Late June early July I believe. My father had passed away in the winter. The house on 983 was for sale. I had been living with my boyfriend at the time, but life was changing for me and it was time to go out on my own. My dear sister Angela had taken me in for a few months while I got my seemingly crumbling life together. It was time to get my very first place and along with that it was time to get my very own dog.

One hot summer night, my friend Les, brought two red heeler puppies to my sisters home and said pick one out I will take the other. There was a little boy and a little girl. They were both the most precious things I had ever seen!  I couldn't resist the little boy. Something drew me to this furry little white teddy bear with a perfect red patch over his right eye. I would call him Butch.

Butch and I began a life together. We moved on to Main Street in Farmington, UT.  As a child I had been very scared to be alone and afraid of the dark. Coming last in a family of five girls I didn't have to be alone much. I guess that's where the fear comes from. Or maybe it is a natural instinct. But with Butch around my fear was dissipating.  I knew no matter what that Butch would not let anything happen to me. Butch was about 4 months old when I realized my newest fear..... Losing that dog. Early one morning I let him out in the front yard to go potty. It was before light so I figured he would be fine to take a quick break and come in. He was a very smart obedient dog so I did not worry about leasing him. He always did his business and came right in. I never accounted for the man that was walking from what I imagine was his release from the jail down the street. In the early morning the man startled butch and he nipped his heel when he passed on the sidewalk. No blood was drawn, but the man reported him to animal control and they came and took him for quarantine. I was so sad when they took him. I knew he was scared and did not understand. But 10 days later I got my buddy back.

Butch and I spent every moment together. I worked a part time job in the morning for four hours to help supplement my horse habit. And even then he would come along with me most days. At lunch I would walk him to the McDonalds and pick him up a hamburger. Then it would be off to the barn where he would spend his days watching lessons in the sunshine and exploring all the wonderful smells.  I still remember the infamous La Femme Nikkita was off with an abscess.  We were grazing her on a small hill. Everything Nikki did Butch would follow. He watched her eat the grass until he began to eat with her. We had casually dropped the lead rope and we're sitting next to our four legged friends when we looked up to see butch grab there lead rope and start walking Nikki off. Of course we all began laughing and telling him how cute he was. He was quite shy so he dropped the rope and looked at us like he did something wrong. I always hoped he would try it again but apparently we embarrassed him too much!

During the early years, Butch and I would go camping and horseback riding with our friends. He loved the great outdoors. I was always able to leave him off leash and he would never go farther than 20 yards away. I loved to watch him run to the front of the trail and stand and watch each horse and rider go by. I always said he was accounting for everybody. On the trails he found his love for water and swimming. Times that we would camp Butch insisted on sleeping on my one man cot with me and occasionally in my sleeping bag. I didn't mind.  I shared everything with that dog. My hopes and dreams, my fears, my soul.  So naturally we would share a cot.

Butch and I had a few apartments along the way, but we finally settled in with a good friend that owned a home with a fenced yard. What a blessing coming from third floor apartment life. Things were good and we had recently moved to a new barn in Bountiful. One day a fellow trainer was struggling with a horse that had just dumped its child several times at a jump. She asked if I could get on the horse and help. Sure!  I enjoyed the challenge as I have always been able to gain the horses confidence to jump.  The horse went to the jump and stopped. I gave the horse a smack on the rump
 and the horse scurried around under me trying to act up. Butch saw me in what he thought was trouble and in his cattle dog mind went behind and heeled the horse on the fetlock. Immediately my girls called him and got him out of there. The horse and I went along and finished well jumping all the jumps. We checked the horse out who seemed to be fine with one small scratch from a tooth. I helped the owner wash her legs as a precaution and all was fine. Until two days later when the owner reported him and he was once again taken away. This time it would be 8 months and 3 court dates before they released him. The Animal Control was determined to destroy this dog. I've always fought for what I believed in. And to me this dog was not an attacker. He was just a dog doing what his instincts told him. No one was injured. Although I would win in court, the Animal Control would appeal. At one point I heard that one of the guys in charge of the center said he would kill my dog if it's the last thing he did.

The day I got Butch back for the second time I promised him I would never let him go back there. After 8 months in a four by three cement cell my beautiful boy was rail thin.  He had sores all over his joints from lying on cement. He had not been walked or given attention or even seen sunlight in 8 months. After the adrenaline wore off I thought after all we had been through I would have to euthanize him anyhow because he was in so much pain. Not too mention if he wasn't aggressive before, he now trusted no one. He was suffering from PTSD and severe anxiety. A few wonderful vets and friends helped me with some anxiety medication and a rehab program to get his health back.

Butch would make a near full recovery. His physical health seemed back to normal within a year. We struggled with his mental health. One day early on a girth fell next to him in the tack room. He hit the ground immediately and began tremuring  for about ten minutes. I silently wept for what he had been through. Life was different now as Butch was deemed dangerous by Animal Control. He was not to be in public off leash or unmuzzled.  But Butch and I settled in a routine. He still went with me everywhere. Just with a new set of rules.  In time he got back to normal. He knew all my friends and clients and was loved by all. The barn mascot for sure. I made sure that everyone who met Butch knew to give him space and let them know he was shy and to give him time. In time he was licking
their faces and greeting them for love.

Shortly after Butch was released the second time, we attended a horse show in California. There was nothing better to a him than hanging out in the golf cart driving around the shows in the sun. I noticed a little black dog enter our alley one day and how curious butch was with this particular dog. He perked up and wanted to play. I hadn't seen this in over a year. Well of course I came home and adopted him a little black dog named Nugget.   Nugget would teach Butch to trust people again. Nuggets time was short on this earth and butch needed a mate. We got little Natalie to fill the void. Butch would outlive Natalie as well. But having another dog was one of the best things for Butch. He loved his little friends. It took him time to trust them, but once he did you could see the loyalty in this dog. A trait I saw over and over with everyone he met. He loved the girls at the barn. He loved my room mate Sean. Sean was so compassionate to Butch. Even when Butch could barely recognize Sean after his 8 month prison time, and he was scared of Sean, Sean rebuilt an even stronger bond with him.

Eleven days ago I left Butch with a friend while I went to teach at another barn. A client came who was fairly new.  For the last time Butch wouldn't trust someone. I had asked and reminded this person to leave Butch alone knowing that Butch wasn't liking this individual.  They decided to pet him innocently and Butch nipped his hand. I guess I always knew it would end like this. An entire decade with this little pet would end with a last nip. He would be turned in for he last time. Officer Amy at Animal Control spent a few minutes with me trying to get to know Butch. She let me pack a blanket and food for him and I put his Thunder Shirt on and looked him in the eyes, I told him I would see him again.

Today I picked him up at 1 o'clock for his appointment to be euthanized at 2.  What a blessing to spend one more hour with my baby.  My best friend. I held him and fed him and pet him. I silently shared the last decade of my life with him. I wen through memory after memory. I wanted to remember everything. I felt each part of his face and rubbed his neck and ears. I laid against him so I could remember the feel of his soft hair on my face. If I had one hour left I wanted to cherish each moment. We drove through Burger King and got him one hamburger and a five piece nugget. I gave him a nugget but as hungry as he was he wasn't sure he could eat it. I took a bite and offered it to him again. He ate every last piece of food. This dog trusted me more than any human has ever. My heart swelled. How lucky was I?  I shared 10 beautiful years with this dog. He was my best friend. People came and went, but Butch stayed with me. It was the end of an era. And as he lay on my lap with a sedative now in his system I saw the past. And then I saw the future. I saw a new friend. I saw new beginnings.  And in my beautiful future, my best friend is still there. He's rolling in the snow in the winter afternoons.  He's swimming with the ducks in the summer and he's still protecting me.

Today my best friend was layed to rest in my arms. I felt his last breath in this mortal life.  I felt peace. I felt him freed of earthly anxieties. His innocence restored.  I love you buddy.  Thank you to everyone who has been a part of his journey. Thank you for your compassion to him and thank you especially to those who loved him.