Friday
Jan112008

« All Real Living »

buber on the porch late in the afternoon on a winter dayBuber the Dog wasn't actually a pig, but they called him "Grunty Pig" nonetheless. When he was excited about his mealtime or the prospect of going on a walk, he would snort and grunt like a pig. He was also built like one too. He was a thick dog. His belly was large and rounded and he had short hair that was finer than a pig's but was more like a different, silky texture of skin. He loved food, that was for sure. He loved food so much he would beg for a dog bone cookie after he ate his dinner. He surely thought, "What a good boy am I!"

Buber wasn't a playful dog like most. In fact, he hardly seemed like a dog at all. He didn't want to play catch. He didn't dig. He rarely climbed on people. He didn't chew on toys, and thankfully he didn't chew on furniture or anything around the house. He didn't bark endlessly. He barely barked at all, and that was mostly to say, "Don't make me tell you twice it's meal time." Yes, he never forgot meal time. Sometimes though, he forgot he already ate, and would come back after seemingly inhaling his food, only to ask for more. His pig-like qualities were more than one. Sometimes he had skunk like qualities too, but it wasn't just that he was black and white.

No one really knows how Buber came to be on this earth or what he was like as a puppy. Some think he was a companion to an older person or someone who had to stay in bed because of sickness or disability. He is a patient animal who might have spent long hours at his master's bedsit. But we just don't know. He was a stray doggie.

buber at the shelter, pressed up against the wire cage so we could pet himBuber was adopted by new parents one day. They had seen him in the county animal shelter a couple days before. The girl saw him first and fell in love right away. She exclaimed to her husband, the boy, "There he is! That's the one!" The boy was tagging behind a short way and had to walk over and see Buber. Buber was the quiet one in the kennel. He was up against the gate in a kennel that gave him a bit of room to walk, but it was a sad place that no dog would want to go to willingly. All the other dogs were barking and it was quite a ruckus. The smell was awful. But Buber the Dog was still and quiet. He seemed scared. He leaned against the gate and had a sad look on his face that said, "I'm not like the other ones. I didn't do anything to get in here. I want to go home. Can you help me? Anyone?" The boy and the girl could only get their fingers through the small openings in the wire cage door, so for several minutes, they petted what little they could reach of his side and ears. They looked at each other in a realization that the search was over. After searching in kennel after kennel, the boy and the girl found their doggy in the last kennel. They promised him they'd take him to where he could be happy forever.

It took a couple days to actually be able to get him home. Maybe his original family was out there looking for him and they had to be given a chance to find him. But no one claimed him so the boy and the girl got the call to come down and take him home if that is what they wanted to do. They scrambled down to the shelter before anyone else could claim him. After meeting him properly in a more pleasing space, they got him for their own. He was theirs to love. But little did they know what Buber could teach them about love and about life.

collage of the sign on the courtyard pillar with Martin Buber's quote, and of the book with a picture of MB that influenced naming our dogBuber the Dog was named after Martin Buber, a great writer and thinker who endlessly pondered life in great depth in an age when people were at risk of forgetting who they are and why they wanted to live. Martin Buber wrote so that people would discover the joy of relating to one another in the most pure sense possible. He wrote of magical moments that pass between people, or even animals and people that let them know there is nothing to fear, or that made them inspired to be open to the next great moment of what he called "meeting." Buber the Dog was named because he only seemed to want to be loved, and his dark eyes radiated love and loyalty. The boy had a book of Martin Buber's with a cover picture that immediately came to mind when he saw Buber the Dog. (There also happened to be a sign at the shelter that had a quote from Martin Buber. The boy and girl saw this sign on the way into picking him up. There was little question what their new doggy's name would be.) Remember, he wasn't really a playful dog that caught balls and frisbees and ran around. Nor did he chew on toys. Maybe he did earlier in his life, but by the time boy and girl found him, he was nothing but a mostly silent and mellow companion who loved to be petted.

clear side profile of buber's head with stoic faceBuber the Dog had long floppy ears that were like silk. He had floppy jowls. He was black and white all over, but his patches varied between large black sections that made him look like a Holstein cow, and smaller black and white ticked patches that made him look like a Dalmatian dog. But he was neither. No one knows what breed he really was but he seemed to be part Bluetick Coonhound and Beagle. When it was meal time, he acted more like a pig. He could pull like a tractor. But when he got next to boy or girl, he was all love. All he wanted was to be petted and held. That is of course, unless he wanted to be fed. Then he became quite a dancer as he jumped up and down and started hooting and hollering, and making quite a scene.

buber sprawled over kelli in bed with a hopelessly loving face in hersThe boy and the girl often sat on the couch with Buber the Dog, and they would pet him so much their arms would grow tired. If they stopped, Buber would hook his nose under their hand and throw his head back as if to remind them that they were here to pet him, and in return for only the most basic things (like food and water, some walks, and a place on the bed along side them) he promised to be there to love them back. Sometimes the boy and girl could not pet him all he wanted but he was so ready to be petted that he would get on the bed or couch and wag his tail in some expression of expectation. He would whip his tail into quite a frenzy. When the boy or the girl came near, he was beating the cushion like his life depended on it. Then one of them would stop and pet him for a while. He calmed down almost immediately, and quickly sought to find the best possible place to sit or lay down so he could be petted best. Usually he liked to be petted on his chest and neck under his collar.

buber imitating the Eeyore toyBuber had a long face that looked like he might be sad. Or sometimes he panted in a way that made him look like he was smiling. We might never know if a dog smiles, but if there is a way to know that he loves his people, it must surely be that he climbs up in bed and makes a great companion, time after time after time. We don't know if dogs want us to be happy, but they have that effect nonetheless. Buber liked to sit between the boy and the girl in such a way that they realized their love for each other as they looked at him, petted him, and enjoyed him so much they could only smile and laugh for hours. Sometimes they lost themselves in their time with Buber, and realized it was late. Time doesn't mean much to a dog, so even if the boy and the girl did exactly the same thing over and over (maybe petting his head or running their fingers along his silky, floppy ears and floppy jowls) he was content, and they were content in each other's company. They told stories and just watched how he reacted to a stroke here or a pat there. Or even to pause and see what he would do. Time and time again, a short pause in petting would cause Buber to reclaim the hand that petted him, or to move closer, just in case he happened to be too far away. He would look at the boy or girl and wait for them to come back to their petting. After a few seconds, he brought them back.

When it was time for walks, the boy and the girl would get his leash. Buber would buzz with excitement and grunt and whine and jump. He was positively electric! It was as if all his life was building to that magic moment. He was so full of excitement he was about to burst. Then he came and sat down dutifully in order to have his leash put on, his face became like that of a child who has just had a candy bar flashed in front of him. For Buber, going on walks was almost too good to be true even though he did it every day. It was the high point of his day—except for when he was being petted by the boy or girl. And certainly except for when it was meal time!

Buber had a black nose that was all aflutter when he went on walks and, being part beagle, he could track a scent exceedingly well. His tractor-like power led the boy and girl on walks more interesting than they intended. And in doing so, they saw things they didn't think they'd see had they done exactly what they planned according to what their senses and sensibilities called for. He was a magical doggy; he knew nothing of the concerns of humans and their laws and lives. He didn't have any use for time. He didn't recognize one language from another. He was a simple creature. All he had to do was be there and he provoked loving responses (though the boy and girl didn't like it when he ran across the garden. They had to remind him he was a hunting dog, not a gardening dog).

buber looking distinguished on the blanket, like a mellow gentlemanA simple creature, he. All the complications of the human world are lost on a dog. And Buber was a special dog, not because he was like Superman or a mighty athlete or a powerful king, but because he was himself. And he brought great joy to all he encountered, only because he could only be himself, and it was up to another to like it or leave it. But he was still Buber the Dog. He had different masks for different moods, but he was essentially the same sweet dog who provoked people to love him and to find something to love in each other.

Dogs don't really worry about the meaning of life. They have their people and want to be with them as much as possible. And who is to say that isn't the meaning of life itself? Martin Buber might have to agree. "All real living is meeting." Buber the Dog believes something quite similar, though he is more of the mind that "all real living is eating." (He never misses a meal time, you know.)

A simple creature. A simple, delightful, loving creature. A grunty pig. Buber the Dog!

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