Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Kiss from Buck

On Thursday last week, I had the wonderful opportunity to visit my sister, Ali, at her home in Newburgh, New York. My recent business trip to New York afforded me the chance to spend my last night with her rather than at my hotel in the city, so I called her a few weeks ago and made all of the arrangements. She and her husband, Armando, graciously picked me up from the train station in Beacon right around dinner time, and they treated me to their favorite pizza as the heavy rains began falling up and down the Hudson River Valley. I can safely describe myself as an avid dog lover, and Ali has a beauty at home named Buck; he's part Rottweiler, part German Shepherd, and I have been looking forward to meeting him ever since Ali invited me to visit their home. Ali cautioned me, however, not to expect Buck to act like Scamp back in Texas. She warned that Buck is not the kind of dog you just go up to and pet; he's highly protective of Ali, and she indicated that if I just let Buck do his thing without trying to insinuate myself on him, he won't mind at all having me visit. I took that advice to heart, and when I saw Buck for the first time, I immediately had immense respect for this big boy. To picture this dog, imagine a large, muscular Rottweiler with a German Shepherd's tail. His head is easily the size of Scamp's entire body, and he moved with the speed and power around his domain. During our pleasant evening of pizza and conversation, Buck simply sat close at hand and observed; however, at one point, when Ali moved close to me to show me a picture, Armando suddenly ordered Buck to his pen upstairs. I asked if Buck had been stalking me, and Armando smiled and said, "No, but he was giving you that Buck look!" Apparently, Buck goes everywhere with Ali, and if someone he doesn't know gets too close to my sister, he goes into protect mode. I guess Armando sensed that such a transformation was underway, and he defused it before anything further developed. We spent another hour visiting before heading to bed for a lovely night's sleep listening to the torrential rain outside pounding down upon their roof and against their windows.

Armando left for work early the next morning, and while I brushed my teeth, Ali led Buck into the bathroom to have me participate in a ritual aimed at helping Buck warm up to visitors. She gave me a rawhide chew called a pig ear and had me give it to Buck while he sat at my feet looking up in utmost anticipation. He eagerly but gently took the treat from my hand and hurried off to devour it inside his pen at the opposite end of the hall from my guest room. Ali went back to her room to prepare for work while I went back to my room to pack my overnight bag in preparation for my train ride back to New York City. As I knelt down on the guest room floor stuffing laundry into my bag, I noticed movement by the door out of the corner of my eye. I looked up to see Buck entering the room alone, and he headed right for me. I didn't move, and following Ali's instructions, I just waited to see what he was going to do. He walked right up to me, put is big wet nose against my cheek and started licking me! I reached up my hand and started stroking his powerful neck and scratching him behind his ears, which lasted for just a few moments before he silently turned around and loped back out the door. I shared my little Buck moment with Ali as we sat eating breakfast, and she seemed delightedly surprised that Buck had warmed up to me so quickly. I figured that it was either my natural dog charm, or he was just tasting me to see if I'd make a good snack for later! Either way, I left my sister's home that morning with warm feelings from many sources; first and foremost, from being able to reconnect with my sister and brother-in-law for the first time in over eighteen months, and secondly, for getting a kiss from an unlikely friend.

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