Thursday, April 14, 2011

Bye bye Buster (1996-2011)

Back in 1996 I was working a night shift, driving the van at Ealing Police Station. It was early January and it was -3 degrees outside. The van had a rubbish heater and I had about three layers of clothing on. My co-pilot was an officer called Claire. Around 4am I got a call to go to an estate in Hanwell, West Ealing to 'sounds of animal trapped in a bin shed'. I often got calls like this because I'm used to handling animals, domestic or wild, and dogs in particular. What I thought I'd find was yet another urban fox that had chanced to climb into a skip after old pizza and discarded KFC and had got trapped. It wouldn't be the first time.

When I arrived I found three of those big silver tubular wheelie bins each around five feet high. We could clearly hear whimpering from within. Claire wasn't keen to climb in as (a) she was a bit scared of dogs and (b) it was a skip full of rubbish, so I had a go ... and tipped the skip over with a very loud clang that probably woke everyone up within a mile radius. However, the deed was done so I started wading through the garbage and eventualy tracked the noise to a soggy looking Walker's crisp box. Inside were two tiny brown puppies, one recenty dead, one alive but thin and weak. Both of their tails had been docked in a very amateur way; you could see the bone on the dead one's tail. The live dog had a sticky out rib which, I assumed, meant it might be broken. I took him out of the box, found a dry Walker's crisp box (they obviously liked their crisps locally)and an old shirt and put the puppy inside and drove back to the police station.


The puppy was small and looked something like a miniature dobermann except he was chestnut brown. He was very hungry and ate an entire can of dogfood in what seemed like 30 seconds. Despite his obvious maltreatment he was a happy little chap. I hated having to put him out in the kennels in the freezing cold station yard. But, as it happened, I didn't have to. I tried it but he was so small that he limbo-ed straight out under the door. The officers in the control room didn't mind. They loved having him in there with them. Battersea Dog's Home didn't collect on a Sunday and it was only just Sunday so I made the decision to take him home after my shift. It's not something that cops normally do but these were unusual circumstances. I deliberately didn't give him any kind of a name and insisted the kids didn't either as I expected we'd lose him after 24 hrs.

Later that day and before my shift started I drove to Hanwell and asked some questions of the locals. Most of them were quite rightly horrified that anyone would have thrown the puppies away so callously. I was pointed in the direction of a nearby group of travelers who had dogs that shared some of the puppy's characteristics. In particular there was a part Dachshund, part Manchester Terrier that was a lot like him. I was pretty convinced that this was where the puppies had come from. I could never prove it of course. The travelers moved on just a couple of days later. Meanwhile, and despite my words of warning, the kids had named the puppy Buster. I had him checked by the vet and he was okay but dehydrated and underweight. He did have a broken rib but it had mended. He was riddled with worms and his tail, though damaged, had healed. I'd kind of fallen for the plucky little chap too and the name was perfect. Consequently, I went through the process of officially applying to keep him. And he's been with us ever since. Buster was always fun. He was gentle and playful and never spiteful or snappy. He liked to play and he was fearless. He liked a challenge. We once inflated 50 balloons for a party. Buster got into the room and made the effort to destroy every single one. He had an obsession with tennis balls and we were told by an animal psychologist that the best way to deal with it was to give him a lot, all at once, to make them less special. So we put him in a room with about 20 tennis balls. He was in Heaven and happily ripped every single one to pieces before looking at us hopefully in case we had more. This penchant for destroying toys (he never damaged furniture or shoes or anything he shouldn't have) nearly killed him when he was seven. He pulled a supposedly indestructible figure-of-eight shaped rubber dog toy to pieces and swallowed a large chunk in one piece. It lodged in his intestine and he needed an operation to remove it. As the years rolled by he got slower and greyer. His knees started to go and he went deaf. But still he demanded his walk every day and he loved to swim. Most recently he started to lose his eyesight and his sense of smell. Then in January he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, unusual in a castrated dog. By the time it was discovered it was inoperable and we knew he was on borrowed time. I just hoped he'd get a few more days in the sun - no dog ever liked to sunbathe as much as he did. Sometimes he'd get almost too hot to stroke. I'm pleased we had that run of good weather this past week. Buster got his mini-Summer. He went downhill very quickly these last few days and finally became so down and miserable that he looked like he'd had enough. His insides were so squeezed by the size of the tumour that he couldn't go to the toilet without discomfort. I took him to the vet today to see if there was anything they could do. There wasn't. A smashing little dog. He'll be very very missed.

11 comments:

Helen Smith said...

Sorry to hear it, Stevyn.

Anonymous said...

Steve - sorry to hear your very sad news - I can confirm Buster was a crazy but adorable little fellow - thinking of you - Debs

Khandie Khisses said...

Hey,

Love you.

Your dog was so adorable. I have a film called 'All Good Dogs Go To Heaven'. When we next meet I will give it to you. Childish but its nice....sorry honey.

Joe Cassels said...

Sorry to hear the sad news. Buster sounds like he had a wonderful life. You must be so proud that you adopted him. He obviously fell on his feet when you found him. I hope he rests in peace and you hang on to the happy memories he's given you.

Stacey said...

Just want to say how very, very sad I am for you all.

Andrew Kerr said...

Hugs and condolances to your family.Sorry for your loss x

@Angpang said...

Sorry to hear of your loss. What a fantastic little character and a great tribute you have written for him.

Dawn said...

He was an adorable little dog - but if I remember correctly you wanted to call him Dave

Dawn said...

He was a lovely little dog, but if I remember correctly you wanted to call him 'Dave'
He will be missed, but he had the best life ever

Stevyn Colgan said...

Thank you all so much for the kind words. He was lovely and, yes, if I'd had my way he'd have been called Dave.

Thankfully, I lost.

joelmead said...

Sorry to hear this, mate…