Schuckman: In Buster’s case, man’s best friend truly was best thing in my life


Buster, the 14-year-old cheagle who was Muddy River Sports Editor Matt Schuckman's sidekick, passed away Saturday. | Submitted photo

QUINCY — The first time I told my co-workers I was going home to cuddle up to something warm and fuzzy, they flashed that “you did not just say that” look at me and assumed I was making some sort of sarcastic reference to my wife.

They soon learned who I meant every time I said it.

I was heading home to Buster.

It didn’t matter what time of day or night I arrived — it could have been 1 p.m. after lunch with the guys or 1 a.m. after meeting another deadline in the newsroom — Buster always greeted me at the top of the steps. I’d open the side door to our house and there the 37-pound cheagle would be standing, wagging his tail and waiting for me to come in.

After I’d pet his head and rub his belly, he’d bounce to the back door and want to go outside. A few minutes later, after he smelled what always felt like every blade of grass as far as he leash would let him go, we’d come back in and he’d get a treat.

Then we’d head to the living room to watch sports of some sort or maybe a show we had saved to the DVR. We’d play a little, often tug-o-war with his big blue stick or a game of fetch with one of the myriad of balls he had accumulated.

Once he tired, he’d settle in on the ottoman between my feet or jump up and lie across my chest and fall asleep.

His routine became my routine and vice versa. He’d wake me around 6 a.m. wanting to go outside again, and if I went back to bed after that, he’d curl up on the floor next to the bed or jump up on it and lay beside me.

If I was leaving the house and Buster heard the keys jingle, he’d head for the door thinking he was tagging along. Often he did. If I mentioned going for a truck ride, he’d start pacing until I was ready to go, always beating me to the door.

Once in the truck, Buster would put his paws up where a passenger might rest his arm and stick his head out the window, the wind blowing his ears back.

It was his moment of true bliss.

That’s what made life with Buster incredible. He did everything with gusto and zeal. He defended his yard from rabbits and squirrels and anyone casually walking down the alley. He’d bark at anyone who came to the front door and then expect them to pet him and love on him once the door opened.

Happy is how he went through life.

When I would sit at the desk in my home office, he’d cuddle up on the floor next to me or lay on the carpet in the next room watching me work. He’d remind me he was there by rubbing up against my leg or licking my hand or snoring once he fell asleep.

The beauty of it is he was always there, following us from room to room and wanting to tag along anytime myself or my wife, Michelle, left. He greeted us at the door when we came home, like he’d been waiting in that spot all along.

I’m going to miss that. I’m going to miss him. Buster passed away Saturday, three days after his 14th birthday and after providing us with 14 years of unconditional love, joy and memories.

My best friend isn’t lying here watching as I punch these keys and write a tribute to him with tears streaming down my cheeks, but the spot on the floor next to me will always be his.

He earned it.

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