Sleep With the Angels, Buddy: Photographing the Death of My Friend

3 Nov
Buddy left us forever today

Buddy left us forever today

Preparing Buddy to go to a better place. He was sedated and sleep alive, but he was near sleeping. The Dr. prepares the drugs that will cause his heart to stop, when he will die.

Preparing Buddy to go to a better place. He was sedated and sleep alive, but he was near sleeping. The Dr. prepares the drugs that will cause his heart to stop, when he will die.

My old friend, Buddy, left us, forever, this afternoon. Below, I am listening to Buddy’s heart stop beating. He took a last,deep gasp, an inhale of breath. It was the sound of death. I have heard it many times before. I knew Buddy was gone. He lived a good life and died a good death.

buddy32He died painlessly. He was surrounded by love when he went to wherever good dogs go.

Buddy, surrounded by love from his family

Buddy, surrounded by love from his family

We said goodbye. Buddy, a few minutes before he went away, forever, today.

The doctor released him from his suffering

The doctor released him from his suffering

Buddy gets the final, loving death drug that stops his heart

Buddy gets the final, loving death drug that stops his heart

My friend, Buddy, a few weeks ago

My friend, Buddy, a few weeks ago

The doctor came over and eased him from his suffering. Buddy lived a good, fulfilled life.

buddy2He is no longer suffering. Buddy had departed a few minutes earlier. But here his body departs his house. His ashes will come back to me and I  will keep them, forever, in a special place, with me always

Written the evening before Buddy was eased out of this world:

Good Bye, Buddy, My Friend. Thank You for Making Me a Better Man

By Nate Thayer

November 2, 2013

Good bye, Buddy, my friend. Thank you for making me a better man.

My enduring, very important, exceptionally wise, unconditionally loving friend, Buddy, has made me a better man in the ten years and five months we have known each other.

Buddy and I had a long talk today.

He told me that he has had a very worthy, very fulfilling life, full of fun and joy and meaning, has had special friends who he knows have loved him very much, and a full breadth of mostly happy and all meaningful and important adventures and experiences.

He told me he loved me. And I told him I loved him, very much, and I wanted him to know that having him in my life has made me a better man.

But, today, he told me that the flame of his inextinguishable candle, which has made his life glow and shine on this earth, has been irreversibly, increasingly flickering in recent months, and he asked me if I would be with him to gently blow it out.

The time has come, he said, for his this life to end, and he asked me to help him go gently, with dignity, into the good, permanent night.

He said that he has been in a lot of pain and it has sabotaged his ability to be joyful.

He cannot muster the strength, after a lifetime of his maximally used muscles, to rise after he needs to lay down and rest, which is now most of the time.

He cannot walk without a great deal of pain.

He cannot see the things and people who have brought him delight and pleasure and make his life worthy.

He cannot hear the sounds and voices of pleasure and love that have surrounded him, without pause, for more than a decade now.

He cannot eat much and he is weak.

And he told me that it frightens him to feel the steady march of the erosion of his mind.

He asked me to help him to go gently, surrounded by love, from this world to a different, unknown place. Even if that place is no place at all, he said he has had a good life full of meaning and joy.

I told him, as he has known has always been true, I would do anything for him, as best I knew how, that will help make him more satisfied, more content, that would give him more pleasure, that would make his heart warmer than one of the already warmest hearts of any of God’s creatures.

He kissed my face and I kissed his forehead, for a very long time. I promised him I would do my best so he would feel better, soon.

Tomorrow, Sunday November 3, a doctor will come to Buddy’s house and I will be holding him tightly in my loving arms as she eases him into a permanent, good, better, final, irrevocable night, and in my elusive dreams and hopes and fantasies, a sunnier bright new dawn where his heart would only smile and be smiled upon.

I want my friend, Buddy, to know this:

Buddy, you have been one of my oldest, closest friends, ever since you were given a reprieve from death row a decade ago and came to live with me.

Buddy has lived with my brother the last couple of years, where he has a backyard and three young whippersnappers who love him.

Buddy you have had a good life, and you have made this world a better place because you have lived. And you have made my life much richer by sharing yourself with me.

You are an older guy, now, Buddy. Glaucoma clouds your eyes and your hearing is worse than mine. You cannot now muster the strength in your well used legs to get up.

I have had to carry you down two flights of stairs so we could amble ever so slowly to the dog park.

The other day, it took us 23 seconds to cross the street. We had to stop and retreat several times because we wouldn’t have made it to the other side before the light turned green.

But you have been, still, very happy, despite your increasing challenges.

These things happen to all of us, Buddy.

I have been so pained to have watched them happening to you now, increasingly diminishing the joy you have had from, and respect you have accorded, simply being alive.

These are some of my thoughts for you, my friend, Buddy, now.

My tears of sadness are clouding my ability, as I write these words, to say goodbye.

But they are exceeded by my memories of the joy and meaning you having been part of my life and this world has brought me:

To my friend, Buddy:

I remember when I first heard of you.

It was at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in a rural church basement.

Someone—a volunteer at a local human society—stood up and said he loved you but you were scheduled to be executed the next day because you did not have a home.

The man said you were a good dog and you just needed someone to love you.
That was in May 2003. I had just gotten home from Iraq. And I needed someone to love me too, Buddy.

So I told the man “Stay the execution, the boy has a home.” We hadn’t actually even met yet, Buddy.

I came to the dog prison and you were hiding at the back corner of your jail cell. They opened the door, and you came out reluctantly but with dignity, but looking humiliated and defeated.

They said you had been a bad boy. They were very wrong, Buddy.

They said that you would run and run and run, and that you demanded to live a free life and that the hated Dog Police had arrested you umpteen times and they had had enough.

So they captured you and put you in a cage.

And then, when nobody wanted to give you a home, they sentenced you to death.

You came out of jail and, once out the front door, you broke free from me, because you didn’t know me then Buddy. I would have done the same thing, if I had been you, then.

You ran and ran and ran from the jail. We had to chase you down the rural roads of Maryland’s Eastern shore until we captured you again.

And then you came home with me, Buddy. That was 10 years ago last summer.

And Scoop, my pal from Bangkok, who we both know had a pea brain but a big heart, and we both know, Buddy, really considered that she was an entitled Princess, was also part of your new family. To be honest and generous, she sometimes was a bitch. She was not very nice to you, Buddy.

But, after all, she was born in a fetid sewer on the streets of Bangkok and now had her own waterfront estate in America. She had had a hard life, too, Buddy, and you understood that.

But you were then, as you are now such a good, tolerant boy. You put up with her snarls and growls—just standing there and letting her have her fit.

And you told me: “It’s OK, Nate. If you have enough room in your heart for me and Scoop, I have enough room in mine for you and Scoop, too.”

You taught me to think of others before myself and that anger and ego and revenge and grudges rarely make anyone happy or improve any situation.

I love you for that, Buddy. You taught me how to be a better man.

Scoop wouldn’t let you sleep on my bed for 6 years, but you would come smooch me each night and then you would sleep blocking the bedroom door. I knew you were trying to protect me, Buddy.

So many nights you would bark at what you suspected was some bad guy, and you were right more than a few times.

Do you remember nearby there was a minimum security juvenile prison and how many times those poor fellows escaped? But the problem was there was only one road out to freedom because we lived on that long peninsula that was surrounded by water. It was nine miles to the nearest store and so, many times, the escaped prisoners would sneak across our farm fields and try to steal my truck to make their getaway.

And you would have none of that, Buddy, would you?

So you barked and barked and ran to the door and back to me until I paid attention and we went outside, together Buddy, with my 30 odd 6 and fired off a few very large, very loud rounds their way. And then they would go away. You were, rightly, very proud of yourself, Buddy.

You sympathized with them, but there were certain red lines for you in life that just could not be crossed. I learned which of those red lines were important to you, Buddy, and made some of them part of my own. Thank you for that, you made me a better man, Buddy.

And you forgave me when, another night, you were convinced something or somebody was outside who shouldn’t be and you barked and smooched me over and over, insisting I pay attention and go see what the ruckus was all about. I stumbled out of bed to the front door with the 45 automatic pistol we kept by our bedside, with no bullet in the chamber but the ammunition clip inserted partially in the weapon.

In truth, I may have been half drunk, Buddy. At the front door, before going outside to investigate, I tried to put a round in the chamber but I couldn’t lock and load because the bullet wouldn’t chamber and remained in the clip.

So, like the idiot I can be sometimes, I tried to load it by pulling the trigger and BOOM, I shot a hole through the wall in the front hallway and that round whizzed right by your head.

I was embarrassed for the accidental discharge and you had the bejesus startled out of you, Buddy.

But you still loved me even when I was an idiot, Buddy. I learned this quality from you, too, Buddy: Unconditional love. You made me a better man.

You were such a happy boy. You loved that big farm. You were free. All 70 acres were yours. The waterfront was yours to frolic, which you did every day. And I remember how happy you were, running full speed round and round and round the swimming pool and the deck. You were celebrating and reveling in just how happy you were to be free.

I learned that being free is very important, from you, Buddy. Thank You for making me a better man.

You are such a loving boy, Buddy.

When Scoop died in my arms, her head resting on my shoulder, in my bed, you smooched her one last time. Even though she never smooched you, once, in six years.

You saw how devastated I was and you smooched me, too, and you put your paws over my heart and your head on my neck. And you crawled up into my bed and you never left me in the years since.

You taught me the importance of tolerance and empathy, Buddy. You made me a better man.

That was the first night you slept all night in my bed, and you did every night afterwards. You were understanding, forgiving, and loyal, Buddy. I learned that from you, too, Buddy. Thank you for making me a better man.

And you smooched me and took care of me, Buddy, when I was sick for a very long time. You would curl up by me every night to protect me, Buddy and you would flow towards more loving when I would ebb towards sicker. I know it wasn’t much fun for you then, Buddy, but you always thought empathy towards others was more important than your own pleasure, in times when others needed you, Buddy.

I learned from you the importance of this, too, Buddy. You made me a better man.

I remember the night when the barn caught fire. You barked and barked and ran up and smooched me and ran back to the front door and back again to my bed, until I woke up and saw what the commotion was all about. You were so proud of yourself. As you should have been, even though the barn burned down.

You believed that you can not try and certainly fail, or you can try and you may succeed or fail. For you, Buddy, it is more important to try and fail than not try at all. I learned that from you, Buddy. You made me a better man.

You were the perfect guard dog, and your unqualified loyalty to those you love and those who loved you never wavered. You are the perfect friend, Buddy.

I love you Buddy and I know you love me. We love each other with all our hearts.

I want you to know that those hated Dog Police Nazi’s who sentenced you to die ten years ago because they said you were a bad dog were wrong, Buddy. You are a very good dog. The world is a better place because you lived.

Then I got sick again, Buddy, and you were such a loving boy. Every night, curling next to me and kissing and licking me. You would wait there, by my side with me, till the morning when I woke, making sure I was OK, before you went out for your long stroll and swim and frolicked, just thankful to be blessed to be alive, to celebrate your freedom. Every day.

You knew what freedom was because you had experienced it denied to you, Buddy. I learned how important it is to remember that, Buddy, from you. Thank you for making me a better man.

I love you Buddy.

You are an older guy, now, Buddy. Your eyes are clouded from Glaucoma.

You still are such a tolerant fellow, Buddy, such a very loving, very, very good boy.

Now, you let Lamont annoy you and you understand. You let him play his childish puppy games and you even let him eat your food.

And, now, Lamont lies next to you staring up at you, wondering how he can be the man you are.

You have shown others a code to live by, by your example, Buddy.

I am very happy and proud to tell the world what a beautiful boy you are, Buddy. It doesn’t matter to me if they can’t understand.

I learned that when you are saying the right thing, believing the right thing, behaving the right way, it doesn’t matter how different people may interpret it. I learned that from you, Buddy. You made me a better man.

These are just some of the many ways you have made me a better person than I was before you blessed me with sharing your life with me, Buddy.

Now, you are still as wise but you are more fragile, Buddy. Now, when you come and sleep next to me it is the time for me to show you how important you have been in my life.

I love you Buddy. Thanks for being my friend. I will miss you very much Buddy.

But I will celebrate your life and how lucky I have been to have you share your wisdom and character with me, because you deserve to be remembered with a smile and warm feeling in my heart.

Because, while you are a better man than I, Buddy, you have made me a better man than I was before I was lucky to have you share your very important, special self with me.

Goodbye, my friend.

I love you now and I will love you forever, Buddy.

I will be holding you very closely, tightly in my arms full of love, as you go gently away from me and from all those who have been lucky to have crossed your path, tomorrow, forever.

But, I want you to have no doubt of this: you will remain alive forever.

You represent the better part of who I am today.

4 Responses to “Sleep With the Angels, Buddy: Photographing the Death of My Friend”

  1. clitemnistra November 4, 2013 at 3:47 am #

    Reblogged this on Clitemnistra.


  2. Jeff Nichols November 4, 2013 at 8:01 am #

    Nate – I’m so sorry for loss, and I feel your pain. I had to go through something similar 20 years ago. It was 20 years ago, but it still hurts me today. We had a dog named Peanut. She was the greatest dog, ever. I can’t write anymore, but again I’m very sorry.

    Jeff Nichols

    Sent from my iPad



  3. Peter Erik Fuchs December 12, 2013 at 8:01 pm #

    Hello Nate: I just want to say thanks for sharing your thoughts, our family lost a wonderful friend when our dear Oscar succumbed to age and illness earlier this year. But I also want to say thanks for your detailed accounting of the gruesome collaboration between Syria and North Korea, two of the most despicable regimes on the planet. I live in Tokyo not far removed from one of the two. Interesting to hear about the role of Israeli intelligence operatives and their apparently successful “counter-measures.” Iran, of course, is the third leg of their despicable triumvirate, and there too they seem to be fairly effective. Cheers!


  4. Angela Johnson December 13, 2013 at 3:26 pm #

    Hello Nate, I am so sorry for unbearable loss. I must tell you that while I cried through most of this, I am so glad that I stopped and took the time to read such a completely, heartfelt, private moment in your life in the manner with which you did. When my son was right at 6 months old, at Christmas time, 1999 we got a golden retriever who was 3 months old. I watched my son Kody grow right alongside our (fur daughter as we lovingly referred to her) Peyton. They had almost 12 years together, & when she became ill, we chose to release her from her pain at home as well. It was by far the best thing to do, for my son and I both. People who don’t have dogs can, & possibly will never know the amount of loyalty, love, patience etc that comes from that bond. I wanted to thank you so much for sharing such a private part of your life, & heart with us. Because of you, I will remember you Buddy too…what a beautiful world we live in indeed, but even better still to go through it with our Buddy’s, & Peyton’s to love, show, & teach us things that can only be done by them. RIP Buddy, Peyton, and those before and after them. Thank you


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