In my lifetime, I’ve changed the lives of many shelter animals, but I had never had one that changed my life — until Buffy. She died on Christmas Eve. Because she was a miracle dog from day one, I did not mind the timing of her death; it seemed almost fitting to close the circle this way.
Buffy was a three-legged pit bull in Tennessee. She was discarded in snowy woods — disabled, friendless, and homeless. For my part, I was afraid of pit bulls. I was retired and dogless and not looking to change that; never mind that I lived over 1,000 miles away.
I believe that a higher power took over. Strange signs appeared out of nowhere: I kept hearing lyrics from a Goo Goo Dolls song on the radio, saying “I just want you to know who I am.” I purchased a ceramic dog treat jar although I had no dog. I peeked at the Tennessee shelter website periodically for three months, and yes, the dog was still there, and no, nobody wanted her. I became more obsessed daily and finally transported her to Boston. (Some Connections readers may remember this part of Buffy’s story, which I wrote about in 2015.)
Why is all this important? Because we had big plans, I just didn’t know it. First, we learned some manners. Then we began visiting patients at veterans hospitals. Then we published a children’s book, Buffy the Three-Legged Pit Bull. Hundreds of dollars in book sale proceeds were donated to animal shelters. I take no credit for any of this. She was a people magnet. I just drove the car, everything else developed organically.
We celebrated a woman veteran as she turned 100 years old. We listened to every story people told us about their own pets. We learned family histories from the pictures hanging on bedside walls. We tried to ease the stress and the anxiety and the hurt, one wag, one lick, one story at a time.
The book opened up a whole new set of possibilities. In classrooms, libraries, and bookstores, 20 or 30 kids would come charging forward to see Buffy. It made me a little nervous at first, but it did not have that effect on Buffy: She ran to greet them. As I read the book out loud, Buffy would circulate through the crowd, collecting pats like it was her due.
At one reading, we arrived drenched from the rain. I had brought towels and asked for volunteers to dry Buffy. Everyone volunteered, of course, and soon they were scrubbing vigorously at that poor dog and I worried her ribs would break. I need not have been concerned — she went belly up, three legs in the air, and basked in their attention. Everyone liked the smell of wet dog.
COVID put a stop to hospital visits and most book appearances. And then, after seven and a half years of working as a team, Buffy developed a cancer that was neither operable nor treatable. She became very weak, was a little hard of hearing, and could not see quite as well as she used to, but her nose never failed her and she continued as an alert and courageous guardian against trespassing squirrels.
Buffy had been discarded like a piece of trash. There was nothing to indicate that she was a champion, that she would have a real and substantial impact on so many people. Her disability, which made her mostly unadoptable, gave hope to others. She came from nothing, yet contributed so much good. And all of that was from her natural instinct, not from teaching, not from training, but from her great heart.
A friend once observed that adopting Buffy, sight unseen and with a troubled background, “may have worked out well, but that doesn’t mean it was a good idea.” That’s certainly true. It was a crazy thing to do. And it was one of the best decisions I ever made.
Ewa Erdman lives in Woburn. Her book about Buffy can be ordered at ewaerdman.com. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell your story. Email your 650-word essay on a relationship to email@example.com. Please note: We do not respond to submissions we won’t pursue.