The adventures of my friend Super Fuzz
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
I had never seen cows fly before. I stood there in shock, almost laughing, almost running. For, indeed, coming straight at me was a full-grown bovine, completely airborne. Behind it followed more, hefting their meat-sack hides over a four-foot-high log fence, which had a triangular base about six feet wide. A sizable gap for a 1,000-pound animal, I thought. Soon the fence was nothing, however, because one of the beeves eventually failed the jump. The top log bowed under the flailing weight of the beast and soon the rest of the heard was trampling over the fence.
Baxter was proud of himself. I could tell by his grin, flashing in the Wyoming sun. He did these kinds of things – and always when his companions least expected. He was a punk, an ornery dog, and sometimes I loathed his presence.
One of my best friends who Baxter lives with phoned the other day. He told me “Super Fuzz,” as we sometimes called him, is dying of heart failure. Suddenly I realize what a good friend Baxter has been to me, how he’s always been around, a part of my life. For all the times he pissed me off, he made me laugh just as hard. He was willful, but always a buddy. That day in Vedauwoo, Wyo., “B-dog” was at the top of his game, rousing those cattle. His pink tongue hanging from his black, furry face, the shaggy white-and-black mutt chased the cattle this way and that through the small glade of aspens. His long, athletic body bounded out the north side of the trees while the cattle jumped the fence to the west. Then Todd – B-dog’s “dad” – ran out the south side, hollering and looking for Baxter. It was like a Bugs Bunny cartoon, in which the characters chase each other through various doors in a hallway. The comedy was too great and I belly-laughed despite a fear the dog could be shot if the rancher happened to see.
The thing about Baxter is that he’s smart. He knows precisely when it’s in his best interest to be obedient and when he’s free to do what he wants, a con who knows when to smile to gain trust he can use against you. As Todd and I would leave the house for a day of climbing, Baxter would look so sad that Todd would insist on taking him. Then insist the dog didn’t need to be tied up while we climbed a 500-foot rock. Then, like clockwork, once Todd and I were tethered to a crack high off the ground, the dog would bolt for a chipmunk, raising hell across the mountain, sending rocks rolling loose and barking as we yelled in futility. He knew no matter how angry we got we would always love him, and that is what made me resent him at times. That punk. He literally was a punk. He came to his “mom,” Tara, as a puppy when she was 15. She begged her dad to let her keep him; she needed a best friend. That was also about the time Tara enjoyed dyed hair and mow hawks. A tuft of hair sits between Baxter’s floppy ears, and Tara has been known to mousse it up and dye it pink. It suits him perfectly.
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Still, I miss B-dog already. He has been a friend to me in hard times. Last winter, I was unemployed, living off a credit card in Bozeman, Mont. I took care of the dogs while Todd and Tara honeymooned in Hawaii. Temps were below zero for weeks. I felt useless except for when I took Baxter and his younger brother, Ronin, for hikes in the woods. I worried they would “punk out” on me, but they didn’t. Even now, I remember the love and hope they gave me at a time when I felt so lost.
Baxter, I will always see you in my dreams: Feet squeak through snow as two dogs break trail through the swaying lodgepoles of Hyalite Canyon. Misty clouds hide jagged summits above the valley I walk. Somewhere in this life, in this ice and cold, I have a future, a purpose, but I can’t see it. A pause washes over me. You and Ronin realize I’m no longer following. You sit in your tracks, looking back, waiting for direction. The knock of a woodpecker bullets the quiet. Snow slides from pine boughs. Flakes settle. Air stirs. Breaths taste of frozen sap, sweet and puckering. The existence I’ve spent all my days searching for surrounds me yet I feel removed from it. It’s getting dark. I motion and you big, lovable mutts bound ahead, meandering through powder drifts in streaks of shaggy black and white fur, leading the way to a warm home. … See you there, buddy. You are the ballsiest ball-less dog I will ever know.
Derek Franz can be reached at dfranz@eaglevalleyenterprise.
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