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It’s hard to write this.

My Sheltie Buzz had been a constant presence by my left leg for 12 1/2 years of his 14 1/2 year life. If I wasn’t visible, he always looked for me until he found me. He was a quiet two year old adult when I first took him home from Northern California Sheltie Rescue. I was his third owner. He got too big for the breed standard and couldn’t be shown by his breeder. Then his second owner couldn’t have two dogs where she was moving and gave him up.

Sheltie Buzz at three

Three years old

During my morning stretches on the floor at home, he would offer me behaviors like sit and down, and I would name them and praise him. From that beginning, we worked more and more on sitting and staying at an unleashed distance, down-stays, and staying while I walked out of sight. Buzz eventually qualified for the AKC’s Canine Good Citizen award.

In his first year with me, I was at a hamfest looking at amateur radio equipment. My girlfriend Pat (now my wife) took him outside to go pee. When he was done, he looked up and didn’t see me, so he took off into the hotel to find me, with my girlfriend chasing after. If Pat walked him down the trail ahead of me, he always looked back to make sure I was coming. He was always very loyal.

After dinner one time, we forgot to clear a chicken carcass we’d mostly picked clean off the table. The next morning, placemats were on the floor along with an empty plate, and there was no sign of the carcass – no bones, nothing. We figure he put his front paws up on a chair, and dragged the placemat with the plate and carcass off the table. Buzz got a jackpot that night, and was always looking for another one.

He survived a dime-sized abdominal mast cell tumor in 2012. We caught it early – stage 1 with very clean margins from surgery to remove it. Over the years, he developed fatty lumps on his chest and stomach, but aspiration always showed them benign.

Hero Sheltie Buzz - Dog portrait

Hero Buzz – March 2019, not quite 14 years old

But he wasn’t so lucky last fall. Another mast cell tumor, almost tennis ball-sized this time, was diagnosed in mid-October 2019. Buzz had become arthritic and deaf at 14. We didn’t want his last months to be a recovery from surgery, which probably wouldn’t have been able to get all of the cancer. So we opted for no treatment. Prednisone was prescribed to possibly shrink the tumor, but that didn’t work.

Sheltie Buzz At Hovenweep National Monument, April 2019 - Elinchrom ELB400 HS

At Hovenweep National Monument, April 2019

On his last night a couple weeks ago, we separated Buzz from Berner Taylor at dinnertime – Buzz would finish his food first and try to eat Taylor’s otherwise. We shut Buzz in my office with his food while we took care of feeding Taylor. Suddenly we heard high pitched barking from the office, sounds I’d never heard Buzz make. When we got there, Buzz was writhing on his side on the ground. I crouched by his head as he made a final bark – and died. He’d eaten about two thirds of his dinner. My guess is he had either a stress-related heart attack or massive stroke.

The hardest thing was to take him to be cremated the next morning. At home afterwards, I walked past one of his usual spots by the foot of the bed, and had to do a double-take – my first glance had shown me subtle movement in the spot. But no, he’s truly gone. I’ll miss his happy smile and constant presence by my side.

He was the best dog a guy could have.

Sheltie Buzz a couple months before death