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Buddy off the box

team members

retired

in memory

buddy taught me how to play flyball

I knew nothing about the sport when I met Loren nearly 4 years ago. I ran Buddy in competition for the first time in Orange County in 2007. No matter what dog he was passing, he knew better than I when he needed to be released. He would jerk, I would hold on just a fraction longer and the pass would be late. He could almost run himself. I am thinking, “How easy is this?”

Okay, maybe I am overstating it—Loren taught me a lot and continues to, but Buddy did teach me something about the joy of flyball. Running with abandon, competing for the pure joy, enjoying the comradery of dog and human alike. He craved no reward more than sincere love and he always threw his whole heart and soul into everything he did. People talk about their “once in a lifetime dog,” and I think maybe the type of faithful devotion and dedication Buddy exhibits is what they’re talking about.

Buddy reached 60K on the first day of the Santa Clarita tourney in the spring of 2008 and seemed to retire the very next heat —running back around the jumps and was so erratic in the ensuing heats that he was pulled for the first time in his career.

But, being the consummate professional, he pulled it together in the last three races on Sunday to help one of his teammates reach her next title.

As usual, he knew better than we, and although we raced him in a couple more tournaments he knew he was done. In his mind he gained his 60K title and hung up his flyball collar. It was only later that we realized that, at 14, his hearing and eyesight were already beginning to wane.

Reaching his FGDCh-60 means he has run the course flawlessly with a flawless team more than 2,400 times. At one time he was the number one Jack Russell Terrier on the west coast and at his retirement he was number seventeen in the world.

That’s not what makes him special though it’s a good example of concentration, right? This is important for the story I’m about to tell. What makes Buddy special is when things like this happen.

I often describe my son Ben in much the same way Loren might describe Buddy. Because Ben is autistic, he’s not inclined to be tarnished by the insecurities that drive many of us to put up emotional barriers and complicate relationships.

He is sweet and pure and wholly caring and he faces life with unmatched sincerity. Buddy took to him instantly.

The day they met was the day Buddy was to complete his 50K title… Ben sat quietly in the announcer’s booth with me between the flyball rings. Buddy, ran his first race, completed the course, and immediately left the ring!

Clearly a calculated maneuver on his part! Loren watched as he ran straight over to Ben and gently placed his front paws on Ben’s lap and lowered his head for a pet. Buddy looked at Loren with his typical angelic face and wouldn’t leave Ben to return to the ring until she physically retrieved him. He continued to stray toward Ben and glance at him fondly throughout the competition and their connection remains to this day. They are kindred spirits.

I’m proud of Buddy for all of his accomplishments. (with his sweet face, he’s starred in commercials and was the “spokesdog” for a federal credit union; making public appearances and being featured on billboards and in print ads.) But mostly, I’m proud of him for the kind of life-force that he is and the pure joy that he brings to our lives. Yes, he was that incredible.

Good-bye Buddy, take care of your little sister.