IUKA – Buford was the bad boy in our town, the renegade, the rat. You had to watch out for him at lively parties, lest he mistake a hunk of your flesh as hors d’oeuvre.
New people in town, unaccustomed to Buford’s excitable ways, might extend a hand to his cute little rat terrier head the same way you’d trail your fingers in the water from a skiff. Buford didn’t like that. Ask Bob Nelson. Bob dropped his fingers to comfort Buford who went nuts when a squirrel swung by. Bob pulled up his forearm with Buford still attached, drawing blood.
Buford was a tad cantankerous, shall we say. Even the local vets didn’t much like fooling with him. But maybe it was because they hadn’t known him as a puppy who could fit in the palm of your hand, back before his bark and his bite matched, and before his breath would shrivel an onion.
His mistress Anne simply didn’t care what others thought. Buford didn’t have to win a popularity contest. He was the love of her life because, as everyone knows, women love bad boys. She loved her bad dog long before that attention-hogging bad Marley climbed up The New York Times best-seller list.
How many times have we all said we wouldn’t harbor a dog that bites? We humans are full of such pronouncements, yet we all put up with people who lie, cheat and steal. Besides, you tend to make exceptions for exceptional dogs. And Buford was, rest his soul, that.
For one thing, Buford was an equal opportunity biter. He didn’t single out mail carriers, pushy children or even strangers. He once bit Anne’s sainted elderly mother, for example, hitting an artery and causing a minor gusher. She forgave him.
Anne was given the use of a North Carolina beach house one summer, courtesy of her kindly aunt and uncle. Buford bit the aunt, and when the uncle intervened, Buford bit the uncle. Nobody threw them out of the house, which is what would have happened to me and my mutts were they biters. Instead, the old couple from that day on looked forward to photographs of Buford that Anne routinely would send them. They sure never forgot him.
Buford didn’t like other dogs, either, not one whit, few exceptions. If a friendly dog introduced itself to Buford in the customary canine fashion, Buford went berserk. He didn’t want dog friends, especially ones that took such presumptuous liberties.
Did I mention? Buford bit Anne, too, if she turned over in her sleep too quickly and startled him.
So a dog that gets away with biting the hand that feeds him is pretty much going to do as he pleases. And Buford did.
We all often puzzled over what made Buford so bad. I suggested it might be the name, which Anne took off the side of a plumber’s beat-up truck. Anne reckoned it was the fact he spent his puppyhood with her old cat, Allie Cat, and took on feline characteristics that added to his confused nature. Because when Buford jumped in your lap and sat there looking up with big bug eyes, you could almost believe he had a sweet disposition. Until he bit you. And if he didn’t, you tended to feel really good about your exceptional self, and think dogs are shrewd judges of something, if not character.
Buford was nearly 15 and seriously ill when he took his last ride and drew his last breath and growled at his last veterinarian. Anne was close by, of course, not unlike the mother of the murderer on death row who begs the governor for a stay for her innocent boy.
There’s no explaining true love. And lucky for Buford, he was hers.
Rheta Grimsley Johnson is a syndicated columnist. She lives in the Iuka vicinity. Contact her at Iuka, MS 38852.
Rheta Grimsley Johnson