“Meet Buddy,” my hostess said, as I pushed open the gate to her property. I’d come to spend my weekends, this and the next, in quiet contemplation in an apartment above her barn.
Her dog, Buddy, approached me, his nose hitting my bicep as I turned around. He was all black, and he was seated. Immediately, I thought of The Hound of the Baskervilles. This dog was huge! He looked up at me with his yellow eyes (“So help me, he had yellow eyes!“), and I thought, “This dog could eat me.”
I tried to pet Buddy. When I was younger I’d had a German Shepherd I could scratch behind both ears when my hand was splayed. Not Buddy. I was shocked at how small my hand looked on his head. He could definitely make short work of me.
I woke at 2:30AM that night to the onslaught of a storm. The rain beat on the slanted roof just over my head, and I thought. “I’m scared to death of Buddy.” I envisioned myself being attacked in the evening hours next week because the dog didn’t recognize me, and his owners were away.
I entered the chicken coop on the second day—it would be my job to feed the chickens and put them on the roost in the evenings. “You pick her up by placing your hands under her. Wrap them around her wings, so she won’t flap them.” I followed my host’s advice and tried to get a good grip on the chicken. This particular hen was still sitting on the roost because of arthritis. I brought the arthritic chicken to the ground. She tottered before walking out of the hen house. I felt proud of myself, but the evening was more difficult.
“She’s heavy. Make sure you don’t pull on her wings.” The second hen felt my lack of confidence and flew out of her nesting box. I could see myself, next weekend, with hens flapping around me, trying to peck out my eyes. At which point, I’d push my way out of the hen house, where Buddy would promptly eat me.
The next morning, I gave animal-feeding another try. I fed Buddy, who ate his food in seconds. I wondered if his meals would suffice next week, or if he’d gnaw off my leg in hunger. I entered the gate to feed the chickens, and they clustered and clucked around me expectantly. A bit intimating, but I thought I could kick them off and fling feed over my shoulder to escape. I went into the coop and helped the arthritic chicken down. Her feathers felt like a Sherpa blanket. It was nice. I gave Buddy a Milkbone, and, suddenly, I knew we were best friends.
The next weekend, I entered the gate to the barn, and Buddy barked at me. Not in a mean way. He’d recognized me. I dropped my stuff off at the barn, and we went for a walk around the property. He was pleased to have my company.
The chickens were quiet as I set them on the roost that night. They hardly stirred as I counted them to make sure they were all there. I left the chicken house by lantern light, and Buddy bounded around me, barking to let me know he was going to be watching for mountain lions and such that night. (There was a rumor of one with babies in the area.) I enjoyed a quiet night sorting out the antics of my fictional characters.
The morning was raucous. I hadn’t heard the rooster as much the weekend before because of the storms. He was making up for lost time. I finally pulled myself out of bed at 6:00AM. I did some writing, came to a stopping point, and went out to feed the chickens. Miss Arthritis was on one foot. She had trouble getting her legs under her. I think she’d had a tough night.
Buddy ate his meal with his usual alacrity and showed off his stick-carrying skills. I gave him a treat before I went back to my room for a breakfast of two of the eggs I’d found in the hen house. Delicious!
I looked out the window around lunch and noticed a revolt was happening in the chicken field. Three of the chickens were in roped-off territory. I headed for the field, Buddy at my…back (not at my heels—he’s too big). I tried to shoo-shoo the birds back to their side of the field. Two of them obeyed, but the last one was determined to enjoy her freedom. Buddy barked a reprimand at her and chased her as best he could outside the gate. He helped me pin in little Miss Behave to get her to go back to her side.
In the afternoon, Buddy and I took another walk. The weather was brisk, and Buddy was excited to show me his haunts. We sat down afterward for a talk. He wasn’t ready for me to leave when it was time for me to get back to work. He followed me unto the deck, which was prohibited. I warned him. He lowered his head and slunk off the stairs. I can’t believe how I afraid of him I was at first!
As I packed up to go home after my second restful weekend in a row, I was sad. Not because I wanted to stay and work more. I was thoroughly ready to return home. I was going to miss Buddy. I was going to miss the soft down of the chickens’ feathers and the quiet tap-tapping of my keyboard. But, mostly, I would miss Buddy.