The unraveling of what I thought was a “happy ending” began Easter Sunday afternoon with a drive to Arkansas to visit an adoptive family who had called saying they were having problems with Buddy, the handsome, loving black lab they had adopted two months earlier. At the end of the visit, Luci and I were headed back to Neosho with all 60-plus pounds of a trembling Buddy in the front seat on my lap! (No, I wasn’t driving.)
Buddy had waited a long time for his forever home. We were elated when he was adopted by a sweet family with children. Buddy loved children. Buddy bonded to his new family in a heartbeat, and the feelings were mutual. Buddy’s intense attachment began to cause a problem; he didn’t do well when separated from his beloved family, for even short periods of time. “Didn’t do well” is really an understatement. Buddy’s separation anxiety hurled him into a complete panic to the point of seriously hurting himself breaking out of and destroying several styles and varieties of kennels. This family tried all the recommended remedies and behavior modifications recommended by the experts.
To complicate matters further, some major health issues had also developed for the mother in this family, who Buddy adored and spent 24 hours a day with. At one point, she collapsed at home and had to be taken to the hospital by ambulance. Buddy literally had to be dragged from her side. For his safety and protection of the house furnishings, Buddy was placed inside two kennels, one inside the other. When the family returned home, they found Buddy bloodied and stuck in a mass of kennel wires he’d bent and broken to try to escape and find his people. The fear-driven adrenaline gave him the strength of The Hulk.
After this traumatic episode, Buddy retreated to the corner in the kitchen, deeply depressed — and stayed there. Who knows what went on in Buddy’s head after that, but whatever it was, he withdrew, as if putting a wall around his heart. It became painfully obvious to all involved that this just wasn’t going to be a good fit for Buddy or for this family that had so many challenges ahead. Tears were shed by everyone as we loaded Buddy in the car. As we drove away, Buddy decided that he needed to be in my lap. My heart ached as I held Buddy and looked into those confused, worried eyes.
This was not the first family Buddy had lost. He’d watched his first beloved family load up their moving truck and drive away from their rural home, leaving Buddy and his best friend Bridgette behind. Buddy met the school bus every day for a long time, with hope his family would return. They never did. Last spring, Buddy and Bridgett were adopted together by a widowed woman. She had a lovely rural home where they’d have someone to love and the freedom they’d gotten used to. We warned their adopter that they had not been “cat tested” but she soon discovered Buddy and Bridgette thought cat-chasing the best game ever. The adopter didn’t agree and we couldn’t blame her. She loved her cats. I’ll always remember that evening that I picked them up and I saw that same confused, worried, sad look in Buddy’s eyes.
Page 2 of 2 - Even though we have no crystal ball and couldn’t have known all that would unfold, I feel we have failed Buddy — and I think Buddy’s fear of losing those he loves grows with each experience of loss or rejection.
I think that happens with us too. We only have to feel the pain of rejection, loss or abandonment a time or two before we develop some pretty unhealthy, fear driven, protective mechanisms in an attempt to prevent that from happening to us again. The only healing for us, or for Buddy, is relationship with someone we can trust; a person who commits to love us and stay by our side on a long journey in the same direction until all that old fear is gone. I pray there is a person out there wearing a good pair of Nikes willing to walk that kind of bumpy road and journey on with our sweet Buddy.
Leanne Williams is president of Faithful Friends.