Boxer Tales Part 1 – Buster

IMG_4146 (002) Buster Mom's portrait
Water Color of Buster, by Jacqueline Stubbs

(Having recently lost my 4th boxer, Tia, from cancer, I thought a blog would be good therapy and a way to honor her. Even better, I’ve decided to start from the beginning. This is Part 1 of “Boxer Tales”, in memory of my beloved Boxer dogs and to showcase the work of artists who captured their spirit.)

Thanksgiving weekend, 1999. My soon to be ex-husband (“X”) was pulling into the driveway in his consistently late fashion. Peeking outside, I noticed he had one of his “running buddies” with him. A dark, handsome stranger sat in the passenger seat of the sedan. I stepped away from the window, bracing myself for his latest excuse, when the front door opened and in bounded an excited 9 month old male boxer. No running buddies in sight.  The dog had been riding in the front seat like he belonged there.

X said he offered to care for the dog over the holiday weekend while it’s owner was visiting family.  No consultation with me. We already had 2 dogs. Chaos ensued and “Buster” was assigned to the back yard.  The next night, temperatures dropped drastically and I invited him in. He was grateful and courteous, placing one paw on my knee then laying down on the blanket I provided. He was an angel all weekend and my love affair with boxers began.

Weeks passed with no word from the owner. Buster became lethargic, so I took him to the vet.  He was diagnosed with and treated for heart-worm. I had him sleep in the bedroom so I could make sure he was still while the drugs worked and they did. When recovered, I gave him one of my old soccer balls and we “kicked” it around the back-yard every day after work. Buster played with that ball until it was a scrap of black and white leather, unrecognizable to anyone but us.

In the spring, “Mr. Previous Owner” called X saying he was ready to pick up Buster. “Of course he is, he found a sucker to pay for food and medical bills for three months.” I told X to tell him that Buster was no longer his dog. That was the beginning of 2 decades of boxer ownership; Buster, Shaylea, Tyson and Tia.

When the divorce was final, I was awarded the dogs and $80,000 worth of debt due to X’s strategically planned unemployment. Even though I was better off, divorce was lonely and scary.  Buster became my guardian angel. I didn’t realize how sensitive boxers were until he started responding to my emotions; licks when I was crying, barks at the door during unexpected knocks, sleeping on my bed through the night….most of the time. One night I woke up to a bright yellow moon in my face. It turned out Buster had gotten bored and fetched his glow-in-the-dark ball. He stood over me with his little boxer nub wagging, wanting me to throw it at 2:00am. Those first few months were tough for him too.  The move to a different house made him anxious and a bit destructive. He single out a sofa cushion and shredded it. Maybe it smelled like X. I couldn’t afford a new sofa, so threw a blanket over the whole mess. My patience with him was rewarded by perfect behavior from then on.

Buster tolerated two more moves and two more boxers.  We ended up living near Houston by the time he was 11. Shortly after the move, he collapsed paralyzed from a problem with two cervical vertebrae. But he was still alert and had happy eyes.  I couldn’t let him go.  I took him to nearby Texas A&M Veterinary Hospital. They said he was a good surgery candidate and successfully restored his ability to walk.  Buster lived another year, which is quite a long time for Boxers. I’m convinced he wanted to make sure I was settled in my new home. Buster did not tolerate having his photo taken. I’m grateful to have these two gems of him.

Buster, not posing, with me in The Woodlands, TX

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