If you’ve ever been to Pikeville Store for a burger, you’ve probably met Buck. Buck greets you at your car when you pull in, and at the door when you leave, hoping for leftovers. To a few (not many, grant you), he’s just an old dog. But to many, he’s a Pikeville fixture. He’s just supposed to be there. But to me? Oh, he’s so much more.
You see, Buck was my Daddy’s dog. And my little brothers. Keep in mind I’m a grand old 46, whole my brothers are in their 20’s. My Daddy started over later in life. I used to say my little brothers were the best thing he ever gave me. Those are some good boys. I couldn’t ask for better. But Buck…..
You see, I wasn’t a Daddy’s girl. We were like oil and water. If he said black I said white. Him and my momma divorced when I was 14. But even before then, it wasn’t the typical father/daughter relationship. Without airing too much dirty laundry, let’s just say my Daddy changed after the divorce and remarrying and having my baby brothers. For the better. Lots of folks have asked me if I resented that fact. No way. In fact, for no other reason than the fact that my little brothers are the bees knees, I’m happy he changed.
Time marched on. I had a wonderful Stepdad. A wonderful Momma. Who did something for me and Dylan everyday of my life. And then I lost her. When she was 51. I went to bed one night and woke up without her. I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I was furious. MY MOMMA? Instead of a whole bunch of folks God could have taken but her? That well, didn’t do anything for me? That didn’t love me like she did? But Buck……
My entire immediate family (both sides, now) lived in Pikeville. Most within a very short distance from one another. With Pikeville Store smack dab in the center. My aunt and uncle ran a super successful grill in this old country store. My aunt Connie was my daddy’s sister, and my uncle Dwayne was my mommas 1st cousin. I’m gonna stop there Bc the more I talk the more confused and inbred you’re gonna think I am. Needless to say, you’re kin to everyone twice at Pikeville. Sometimes 3 times.
For a long time, my Daddy hadn’t been well. Looking back, it was pretty obvious. But like him, I think we all just ignored it. Then boom. One day he finally went to the doctor and BOOM. There it was. Liver cancer. Advanced. Originated they thought in the bile duct, had been there for no telling how long. Slow growing and toxic. Daddy died the same week of his diagnosis. I was sad. I cried. I hated it. Mostly for my brothers. But Buck…..
Shortly after Daddy died, Buck showed up at the store. My aunt Connie, who is SO not a dog person, fell into the routine of feeding him, and well, he kinda just stayed. He went home too, but never for long. I worked on weekends some, and Buck was always there to greet me. Yes, everyone loved him, but me and him had something special going on. I found myself calling him “Sissy’s Angel” and having full blown conversations with him. Bringing him treats.
Fast forward a few years and my aunt and uncles only child, my 1st cousin, was diagnosed with the dreaded C word also. Liver. Just like Daddy. They shut the store down and never looked back. Taking him to treatments, doctors, taking care of him. Then God saw fit to take him. At 37. Thats a whole other story. There aren’t enough hours in the day. That one is to be continued. But Buck.
Pikeville Store sat empty. The community mourned Jason along with the feeling only Pikeville could give them. Not to mention the burgers. My Granny O, who was in her 90’s lived right next door. On my Sunday trips to take her out to eat and to the store, there was Buck. He didn’t understand why no one was at the store, but he still had all of us. He moved from house to house, staying mainly at my aunt and uncles. But when I was at Granny O’s, he was with me. I took a sense of pride in that. He picked ME!
Rocking on until 2018, at the age of 93, and Granny O fell. It would begin a year of tears, sleepless nights, frustrations and turmoil we never saw coming. My sister and I found ourselves in the role of full time caregivers for an extremely independent, seasoned woman. On my days and evenings there, I just wanted to be at home. I had a million things to do, blah blah blah. But Buck….if I was there, so was he. I loved giggling when my uncle D said, well, Buck hardly ever comes back up to the house anymore. Inwardly I gloated. Sissy’s angel.
And besides eating burgers, Buck liked to do one thing. Chase cars. We lost count of the times he got nicked and bumped over the years. It was just his thing. But getting older (Buck is about 13 now), he couldn’t bounce back as fast. So in February when a girl came into the store and said “Hey, I hit your dog” (the store had new owners then), Buck got down. His back end wasn’t working hardly at all. We tried to keep him quiet, hoping he was just sore, but there’s no such thing as keeping Buck still. The vet said he had nerve damage, and all we really could do was try to contain him and give him his medicine to see if it helped. But you know that line “Nobody puts Baby in a corner”? Well, nobody puts Buck in a cage. Or indoors for that matter. He was MISERABLE. To which my aunt and uncle just said the heck with it and let him loose.
We talked about what we should do for him. Many times we KNEW what should be done, but no one wanted to speak it aloud. So we let him do what Buck does. He went where he wanted, a lot slower than before. Lots of times he couldn’t get up. I sat in the corn field across the road from my Granny’s hand feeding him at night. I may or may not have sung you are my sunshine every night too, but there are no witnesses so….Buck got ice in his water. And when Granny O got to where she didn’t feel like eating, half of every meal Granny O didn’t eat. Oh, she complained about that ole stinky dog on her porch, but let me not be able to find him. She asked a 100x until I said “he’s out here, Granny O”.
The last few days of Granny O’s life Buck sat in front of that door like nobody’s business. He knew. I saw it in his eyes and he looked right back at me and saw it in mine. If inside ever got the best of me, and Lord, did it, all I had to do was step outside and pet Buck. He made everything right again. When I would get to her house everyday from work, I could count on Buck to instantly make me feel better. He was my rock.
I worried that after Granny O died, Buck would get worse. And it was getting cold. I was terrified the cold weather would wreak havoc on him. But Buck….Buck has bounced back the last few weeks like I never could have dreamed. I went to see him today and he practically ran down to Granny O’s when I pulled in. Sissy’s angel.
Who while guarding the door, and eating burgers, and chasing cars, and greeting me under that tree of the evening after work, healed my heart. Gave me a peace and understanding of why me and my daddy were like we were. Made all those wrongs right. An angel in the form of an old Yeller dog. Best dang dog in Pikeville. In the world, even.