The march of attrition: an ode to Buddy

It is ironic that Time, while rewarding us with countless memories, also saps us of these very same. Time whittles away our day and our life, and it is a cruel double-edged sword. It bestows illustrious fragments of a past we can defer to, but also removes, slowly, props from the stage that is our life.

Think of it.

At any one point in this life, you occupy a present static stage. The stage is a snapshot, it is cluttered with disarrayed props that constitute your existence. You are unaware of them and in fact you probably take them for granted. They are independent elements of your life and they gather their forces to create this hulking monolith that you call “life.” The stage elements coalesce into a repetitive forward march descending into oblivion.

Time creates and Time removes.

The stage you knew slowly disassembles over intermittent stretches of time. If you live long enough, it may happen upon you that one morning of unusual perspective, you may look back at an instance implanted in your past memory and realize that it has slowly blurred into near non-existence as the ravages of time lay waste to what you were. Elements, props, they drop out. A procession of attrition. They cease to exist or they move or are sold or tossed in the trash. It can be bittersweet and oppressive.

The elements wave farewell when they wander away.

Sometimes you put them to sleep. You send them away to to the final jab of the death needle.

This morning, I did that. Buddy was sent away.

Buddy was a prop. He was introduced onto my stage during a period of great change for me when I bought a house with my wife. The house was a prop, marriage was a prop, my son was a prop, my wife was a prop. I was the biggest prop. I was an act. I was full of crap. I had a house once. I had the family, I had the normal clockwork family dinners and family television hour and a full queen bed. Soon after we bought the house, my wife’s co-worker moved into a condo and needed to unload their 1-1/2 year-old German Shepherd, Buddy. Buddy invaded our yard and my heart. When he was dropped off, he came attached to a green rubber porcupine ball. His conjoined attachment to that ball was fascinating. If the ball was out of sight, he would frantically search until he found it.

Buddy was the first male dog I ever had and it was a welcome relief during this period of intense domestication (a process which will happily finish off what being wedded didn’t). I walked Buddy almost daily. Having a house was great for me because I was able to spend most of my home time outside and Buddy was always at my side. I remember his masculine, limber energy. I was walking him the morning of 9/11 while radio announcers broke the news of the unfolding disaster in New York. Buddy was forever clenching his green ball and his powerful command of the backyard was an awesome natural sight to behold. It was “Alpha” as some might quip.

The picture above was taken in January, 2003. I had props that made my life at the particular sun-drenched moment. This was the backyard stage. The house rested in the background. I have cropped my son out of the picture. My wife was in the house. The house. Buddy. That green ball. So many props that molded Me. A lazy, sunny weekend afternoon. Me, languishing, taking photos with my antiquated (even then) digital camera. Sitting in the garage, maybe drinking a beer or several. Drifting. I drifted.

In my life, on my stage, the house and Buddy were displaced. Not gone. Just not here.

The marriage, gone. Me, still here. My son, growing, slowly drifting away as well. Our children should move to new stages in this relentless cycle of life. That is what parents are here to enable.

Today, we sent Buddy away for good.

Buddy, once a virile canine beast has deteriorated in the past year. I went to visit him today for one last time. I needed to say goodbye to this prop.

A glimmer of life still flickered as he hobbled around the yard. His mind fared better than his skeleton. His right hind leg dragged. He urinated uncontrollably at one point. I didn’t witness it, but I also hear his bowel movements have become as randomly uncontrollable as well. I petted his head and felt a tumor that rested at the base of his skull. I watched as he lost his footing and fell face first in a planter.

It was time.

This was not the Buddy I once shared the stage with. We were so fulsome in life and our stage was set. The stage as it appeared in the photo has been gutted. A few props remain. But Buddy is now gone.

Exit stage right as is our wont.