by Tara Borgh
My husband, Erik, and I both grew up with dogs. So, when we bought our first home, it was only natural that we would want to get a dog. Our Labrador Retriever, Buck, joined our family two months after we moved in. He was our first baby and we took him everywhere we went. If he couldn’t come along, he stayed with my father or Erik’s parents.
When we started having children we realized that Buck took his role as friend and protector very seriously. One afternoon, soon after we brought our daughter home, I was walking in the yard with him when a delivery truck pulled up. As the driver jogged up my driveway Buck stopped him in his tracks with a growl and hackles raised. From that day forward, no one could step foot on our property without Buck announcing their presence. Buck’s protective instincts increased when we brought our son home three years later. Whenever our children were in the yard, he was nearby keeping watch over them.
One of the great things about dogs is that they can add so much to the family dynamic. Every summer, we travel to the Jersey shore and Buck was always with us. He would get so excited when he saw me take the duffel bags out of the closet because he knew we were going somewhere and he wasn’t going to miss out. He would shadow me from the minute I started packing until we loaded the truck. Then he would hop in the back and off we’d go.
Part of our routine at the shore was taking him to the beach to swim. He loved to race out into the ocean to retrieve his favorite football and he would surf the waves on his way back to shore. In the beginning, Erik and I would throw the ball for him, but as the children grew they soon took over.
Last summer, the children received their own kayaks so they could paddle out into the bay. One morning, we took Buck with us so he could swim while we kayaked in the lagoon. As soon as he spotted the children paddling out, he started barking. He swam out to their kayaks and circled them as if to say, “I don’t like you this far from the shore.” They got the message and paddled in as he led them back to the beach.
Buck started slowing down as he neared his 11th birthday, but he was still a puppy at heart. Sadly the day came when we had to say our good-byes to our loyal friend. As we mourned our loss, my husband and I kept telling the children to just let the tears fall and know that he will always be in our hearts. Then my husband suggested that we make a scrapbook of all the memories we have with Buck.
A few days later I started the process of gathering all of the pictures I had taken over his lifetime. My son helped me by going through a box of old pictures that contained his puppy pictures. Once I organized the pictures my daughter helped with the page layouts. It wasn’t easy. Tears often flowed as we worked. But we also smiled and laughed as we remembered how he pinned me on my back the first night of obedience training, or how he would lie on the floor and chew his bone while the children climbed all over him. Then there was the time when he chased us down hills as we tobogganed. Buck wasn’t just a dog—he was a member of our family. Having this collection of pictures will always remind us of his loyalty to our family and his special place in our hearts.