A Girl

Named Buck

(Sep. 22, 1988 - April 22, 2002)

by Tamara Somerville

© 2011

But for a roommate whose judgment I questioned at the time, I would never have gotten a Samoyed.  My first Samoyed was not mine for the first four years I knew her.  She belonged to a roommate in a Capitol Hill group house populated by twenty-somethings otherwise preoccupied with jobs and Happy Hour.  Fortunately, Facebook did not yet exist so photos of those years are not widely available. 

The roommate declared at some point that she wanted a puppy and then she bought a dog breed book and marked the page on Samoyeds.  And that was the beginning of my acquaintance with Samoyeds. 

Her name was “Buck.”  Could not have imagined when I first laid eyes on her (when she was 7 weeks old) just how much she would come to impact my life.  For starters, this is approximately the millionth time I’ll have explained why she was named Buck.  Well, my roommate wanted a boy and told the breeder she wanted a boy.  So when we all went to the breeder’s home to get the puppy we assumed the puppy was a boy (Buck didn’t come with papers).  Even though one of us roommates was a man, he also failed to confirm that Buck was a boy.  We were preoccupied with the end that was giving us kisses. 

We had a party that weekend -- of the kegger kind -- and a friend informed us that Buck was a girl.   “No, he’s not,” we replied.  “We’re cutting you off from the keg and taking your car keys.” 

The following week a veterinarian informed my roommate:  “Yes, she is.”

We had to accept the vet’s sober expertise, but the name “Buck” stuck.  She was named for the dog in Jack London’s “Call of the Wild.”  At least she wasn’t named Fluffy (the unofficial name of my current Samoyed, Gidget, who countless passerby have proclaimed to be oh so “Fuh-luff-eeeeeeeeee!”).

Buck is proof of God.  She could not have survived us but for divine intervention and God knows we did not deserve her.  At ten weeks, she was put in the backyard, unsupervised.  Mind you, this was the Washington, D.C. of Mayor Marion “the-witch-set-me-up” Barry and we lived on the edge of what was then considered somewhat safely habitable during daylight hours (but not by Virginians, who all thought we were insane to live in DC, period). 

Buck was stolen out of the yard.  She had a collar and tags on, which made it convenient for the thief to rob us a couple more times.  Two weeks, a thousand signs (yes, 1000) and one ransom later (including a memorable midnight stakeout at the Ellen Wilson housing project armed with golf clubs), we got her back after paying someone who had supposedly bought her off someone else.  

From then on, Buck was forever guarded around most strangers and was an effective watch dog.  It was not until years later that I learned this was because she had been traumatized during the critical “imprinting” period. 

It sounds like we were a bunch of fools.  We certainly were what I would now consider dog-ignorant (Buck would have benefited from us joining the PVSC, which I had not yet heard of).  But we adored her and lavished attention on her and our lives evolved to include long walks with her and drives to take her to fun, new places.  Our Alfa-Romeo devotee roommate didn’t even get upset when Buck upchucked eggs all over the center console of his beloved Spyder.  Which she did on a few occasions.  And when she rolled in Clydesdale doo at the Cherry Blossom parade, I did not flinch when she jumped back into my Miata (I had learned by then to keep towels in the car).

When Buck was four years old, her owner’s living situation was going to change and Buck could not be part of that equation.  I did not let another word escape her mouth before saying:  “I’ll take her!!!”  I was thrilled to finally have total say over the welfare of this dog that I’d been in love with and who had been my Godpuppy since she was 7 weeks old. 

I was single and for years my life had revolved around the U.S. Senate -- where you were a slacker if you did not work at least one of the weekend days and my job included staffing filibusters.  That didn’t change during Buck’s life but she went to the office with me on weekends (which she’d been doing even before she was mine -- Congress may be America’s dog-friendliest office complex) and my boss, Senator Mitch McConnell, was accommodating of my need to run home during Senate debate to take her out or arrange for a sitter and walkers.  Buck’s the reason I never lived more than a mile from the office.

Buck was also the catalyst for camping for the first time since I was a little girl.  In searching for dog-friendly vacation options, I quickly settled on Virginia State Parks (Virginia is for dog lovers!) and as I write this, twenty years later, I’m packing to go camping next week with Gidget and five other Samoyeds and their owners (friendships formed through our membership in the PVSC).   

It was because of Buck that I came to be friends with so many people in my neighborhood who I otherwise may never have had a conversation with.  All dogs -- but especially outgoing gorgeous breeds like Samoyeds -- are an impetus for breaking the ice with strangers.   For months after Buck died, people I did not even recognize would stop me on the sidewalk and at work and ask how she was doing.  It made for a very public grieving process. 

Buck lived for nearly 14 years.  And she was remarkably healthy for nearly all that time with few vet visits between annual physicals.  Her decline was swift and mostly silent as her liver deteriorated rapidly between semi-annual bloodwork that was being done after she went on Etogesic for arthritis.  A few months after her 13th birthday, a routine vet visit yielded bloodwork revealing elevated liver enzymes.  Subsequent ultrasound, on Christmas Eve, led to a diagnosis of chronic active hepatitis -- a “treatable but incurable” condition, her excellent vet informed me.  Consulting closely with her veterinarian, we got the enzymes back to normal through diet (safflower oil stir-fry of organic chicken breasts and veggies served over organic brown rice) and drugs (8 pills daily).  But soon her kidneys began to fail, too.   

I still have in a trunk her collar and tags, her favorite stuffed animal (“Mr. Frog”) who she would carry in her mouth until “The Vacuum-Monster” was put away, and dozens of condolence cards -- including crayoned sympathies from neighbor kids and “Gold Seal” notes from DC’s political class.  Also in the Buck-pile is an old big cell phone that has a single Buck-hair under the glass. 

Best of all, I have nearly 14 years of memories of countless laughs at her expressive rooing, playing and uniquely Buck behaviors.  For decades to come, she will live on in memories and the hearts of all who knew her.


S a m a n t i c shttp://www.potomacvalleysams.com/Samantics.html

Buck’s last walk at Great Falls National Park, two days before she died on April 22, 2002.

Buck’s last roadtrip to Douthat State Park, Virginia.  Buck got me back into camping - as an adult.  She loved to swim and retrieve!

Buck riding shotgun in her convertible.  Photograph taken the year she died.