By Roger Barbee
He was just a dog.
Several years ago he paid us his first visit on a bright Saturday morning as our pack slept in their crates. I happened to look out the back window and saw him -- a large husky walking around the corn crib, doing what dogs do in new spaces. I alerted Mary Ann who immediately went out with a leash corralling the gentle giant.
His collar had all the necessary information, so his owner, the dad of the newly arrived family from Fairfax, walked up the private road to our place and retrieved him. That morning we not only met Buck the dog, but Mike the dad who told us how his family, shortly after moving to the end of the lane, had visited the county pound looking for a dog as a gift for daughter Kailey's tenth birthday.
It was in this way they adopted Buck, the beautiful, majestic husky.
Over the years, we watched Buck and his young mistress make their walk to the bus stop on our road. A parent walked with Buck and his young mistress and her brother, holding the leashed dog, but he needed no leash. He walked the private lane with purpose. He seemed to have heard Dolly Parton's advice: "Decide what you are going to do and do it with purpose." Buck epitomized that wisdom each morning as he escorted his young charges to their destination.
Often, as our hound Nolan sat in a corner and bayed at him, Buck would glance up, look toward Nolan with total indifference, and continue with his morning task. He had no time for trifling play for the bus would arrive on schedule, and Buck had to have his charges at the stop.
The hound and his play would wait.
As far as I know, Buck never came into our yard to play or romp with our two beagles and hound. They would try to persuade him to enter their space, but he was too intent on other things to be bothered. If Mitsy, the dog we share with a neighbor, was out, he would sniff and prance with her in the back field or on the edge of the wired lot, but then, after a brief interlude, he would amble on, like the moving river at the end of our road.
If I encountered Buck and one of his adults walking on the road, he would be polite and let me pet him, staring into my face with his bright blue eyes while also retaining an aloofness about him that seemed to say that he had no time for silly chatter. If I had something of importance to say he seemed to be thinking, then say it, but his eyes seemed to say that he was busy on his walk with one of his owners and had no time for idle gossip. He allowed me to scratch his ears, then would look up pleadingly to his walker as if to say, "Can we go now, I've been polite long enough."
If he were not named for Jack London's great dog of the Klondike, he should have been.
In "The Call of the Wild," a novel of dogs, men, and gold in Alaska, Buck, the main character stands above all other people and dogs in the story. His life is similar to Kailey's Buck as both were abandoned and then rescued. Buck, the dog of the far North, repeatedly proves his grit in the raw life of the Gold Rush. He is a noble animal full of courage, love for his rescuer, and sense of duty. Just like Kailey's Buck of Scott's Lane.
Earlier this week I saw him passing by walking on the shoulder of our road. Mitsy, being loose, ran out and they traded smells as his size towered over her. I called his name and his majestic head turned toward my voice, but he then turned, continuing across our lot toward his own. I called Mike, who told me how he had gotten loose. "Well, he's headed home, "I told him. Later this same week, we heard that he was having health issues, and last night received an email telling us that Buck, the husky with majestic manners, intent of purpose, and loyalty to family and duty, had been put to rest.
Roger Barbee is a retired educator who lives in Edinburg with his wife Mary Ann, four dogs and five cats. Email him at email@example.com.
He was just a dog. But what a dog.