Power of Dog

Never underestimate the power and influence of a dog
By Jay Gore, June 2016
Billy Buddy with Marcia

Billy Buddy with Marcia

A few years ago a friend suggested to my sister a nice walk down to Park Ave. Sure, my sister, Marcia, responded since it was a beautiful day in New York. On the way to the café, they passed a pet store and friend beckoned Marcia in for a look. They saw birds, cats, and other animals, and finally got back to the dog area. 
 
All the while, a little dog was loose in the store and kept following them around. Kind of a nuisance! Marcia kept tripping over the dog. They looked at all the dogs on display, with no intentions of getting one, and turned to leave. Here again was that darn little dog to step over. Marcia asked a store clerk what was wrong with this little guy. He’s told her that he was a Chihuahua but he is too big for the breed. Many have looked but rejected him for his size. They proceeded to the coffee shop. 
 
Angst began to set in with my sister as they had coffee. She’s had Maltese and Lhasa Apso dogs in the past, but had been seriously ill for several years and without dogs. She was feeling sorry and taking pity on the little pet store dog and suggested they go back to see him again. She decided to him buy and happily took him home!
 
Billy Buddy settled into his new apartment living and for many years made Marcia a fine companion. He got her out for walks around the neighborhood twice a day. They would go over to the “grassy knoll” a couple blocks away where Billy would do his business and play with other dogs. When I would make my weekly Sunday call to them, most of what we talked about was Billy Buddy. I hunt, and the dogs I’ve had were black Labrador Retrievers. I really don’t have a ‘thing’ for little dogs. But I was happy for my sister. 
 
Two events came together in late 2008. Marcia’s memory was failing and I was concerned about her being out in New York, getting turned around and not being able to find home. Also her apartment owners were upgrading and remodeling rooms and wanted to move her to another apartment two floors up. My son and I flew to New York to check the situation and visit with the apartment manager. Marcia looked at another apartment and became disturbed. They offered 
 
to buy her out of her apartment and she accepted. I made plans to move her and Billy to Missoula, and for her to live in a nice apartment at the Clark Fork Riverside overlooking the river. She moved here in January 2009. My sister (with Billy Buddy), daughter-in-law Suzanne and I made the plane trip back to Missoula from New York via Minneapolis on the last flight out on a very stormy winter night. I was a wreck, worrying about getting stuck in LaGuardia Airport. We got out and made connections in Minneapolis. We were all tired and on nerves. The best passenger was Billy. He rode his doggy travel bag like a trooper. And I was most worried that he might bark or present other problems. Neither happened. 
 
At the Clark Fork Riverside, Marcia settled in and Billy was a social hit with other occupants. He is cute and a very engaging little dog. They have a nice riverside trail and grassy area to walk and the two could visit with folks. One of the apartment renters was an older, wheelchair-bound gentleman named Gilbert. He was an uncle of Jan’s, a friend of ours. 
 
After two years or so, my sister’s memory worsened and was moved, with Billy, to an assisted living apartment unit. There, they also had nice sidewalks and grassy areas to walk plus someone to watch after them. But in time, Billy’s pulling and leash tripping led to several falls for Marcia so I needed to find him a new home. Marcia was saddened but understood the need to let him go. When Billy left, Marcia’s disposition brightened and she stopped smoking. Billy’s earlier positive companionship had become a negative for Marcia as her stress and mental condition changed. 
 
I mentioned that Billy might need a new home to Jan and she said her uncle Gilbert often commented on Billy. He offered to take him. I suggested we try this for a week or so and see how they get along. Jan frequently asked her uncle if she should find another home for Billy and he wouldn’t answer. Jan persisted and Uncle Gilbert finally told her that with Billy, folks downstairs in the lobby talked to him. Billy was a conversation starter; he opened a social world for Gilbert, which he relished. Well, it was a match made in heaven. Uncle Gilbert dearly loved Billy Buddy and had two loving years with him. At 96, after a short illness Gilbert peacefully passed with his dog Billy in his lap.
 
Jan was on a trip when uncle Gilbert became ill. She asked me if I would go to his home, get Billy, food and supplies and take him to Showcase Dog Grooming. The owner, Kathi, and her crew had clipped Billy’s nails and cared for him before. I arranged for them to keep him until Jan returned in three days.  Meanwhile a young lady, Kalina, 27, working at the groomers became attached to Billy and later offered to take and care for him after Gilbert died. Her family had dogs but she never had one. From her work in the dog business, she knew older dogs were difficult to adopt out. She thought Billy adorable and noticed he was comfortable and social around people. 
 
With Marcia and uncle Gilbert, Billy was too well fed and unhealthfully over weight. Kalina managed his diet and walked him a lot. He lost at least two pounds and looked great. They bathed and groomed him and he looks like he’s only a year or so old. In fact, we do not know exactly how old he is. He is at least 15 years old, how many years over that is a guess. While Billy wears his special goggles and sits in his basket, Kalina bikes him to work each day. He takes his place lying on a bench with another “front room” dog and seems to oversee and command the business operation. 
 
I have only had big dogs, six black Labrador Retrievers. I have normally eschewed little dogs. They can be barky and might nip at folks. My experience with this little dog has shown me that the size of the dog does not matter concerning the quality of relationship a human can have with their dog of choice. There is no doubt that this little dog-brought joy, pleasure, happiness and positive companionship to these three very diverse people. This big-city puppy came to the Wild West and won hearts, lots of hearts. Long live Billy Buddy and may he continue keeping people happy.

Jay Gore has had a long and varied career in wildlife management. He is particularly fond of Labrador Retrievers and has written a book, Is Life Worth Living Without Labs? (2014), published by Lulu.com.