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A Photographic Journey

The Story of Buddy, The Redbone Coonhound.

Singing the song of my people

I have probably taken a million photos of my dog over the years, starting our first days together.

First good photo of Buddy, he was afraid of the camera

Buddy was three when I adopted him. At the time of his rescue in rural Kentucky, he was on a 48-hour list to be put down. Through a series of calls from some awesome people, he made his way up to New England. No one knew what his story was, only that he had been found as a stray. Buddy was bone- thin, so he had apparently been on the street for some time.

The Redbone Coonhound is rare, so finding one at a shelter was amazing. Those expressive eyes had me from the moment I saw them, it was love at first sight. The big question was how Buddy would react to a cat. I had a punky black dog-like cat at home. Coonhounds are hunting dogs, so safety was a concern. The staff tested Buddy with a dog friendly cat at the shelter, he ignored the cat which was the best possible reaction. A few hours later, I left the shelter with Buddy, who was named Rogue at the time. I was excited, but not exactly prepared, for everything that came along with a rescue dog .

Buddy had a lot, and by a lot I mean excessive anxiety. He was fearful of everyone and everything except me, and his cat, with whom he immediately bonded. It was the easiest animal introduction ever. Phoenix circled Buddy a few times, and then head butted him; they were best friends from that moment on. Phoenix was a very confident cat and seemed to have a calming effect on him. Buddy was always gentle with Phoenix even when he went through the weird phase of putting Phoenix's head in his mouth. I think he was just trying to get him to play.

Phoenix was fine

And very tolerant

Buddy 's anxiety was a challenge. He used to violently shake any time he was scared. It didn't help that he is so good-looking, people would always want to come over and meet him. Having strangers approach without Buddy wanting to run away took a long time to overcome. I bought him a Thunder Shirt, which is a tight wrap that is intended to put pressure on acupressure points making the dog feel more secure. It worked to a certain extent, but as I learned there would be no quick fix with Buddy. I worked with him a little at a time to help him overcome his fears. Every time I thought I had his triggers figured out he would come up with a new one. Plastic bags, the wind, cars, bikes, etc... The first fouth of July was brutal. My heart was breaking for him and there were times I doubted I was going to be able to help him.

It took about six months for Buddy to start to be comfortable in his own skin, and at about the one-year mark he was becoming a different dog. Plastic bags no longer freaked him out, he learned that men in hats were actually okay. People running towards him were not coming after him, but simply jogging by him. His unique personality was staring to shine, along with some endearing quirks. Buddy sometimes makes a sound similar to the human "hmm." He does this out of contentment, and sometimes seemingly out of empathy. When my mother passed unexpectedly in 2014, Buddy was glued to my side. He would sit next to me, and either nudge me with his nose, or rest one paw on me, making the "hmm" sound. It was like he was trying to let me know he understood why I was so heartbroken. When his cat was killed, he looked around for Phoenix for a month, sometimes making that sound. Animals understand and experience grief much the way we do, they just don't have the language to process it.



Over time, I learned that Buddy isn't a typical Coonhound in that he won't take off when he is let off leash. He is uninterested in wildlife of any kind. He is the first dog I have ever known who won't chase a squirrel. He would do it when he was with friends, because they were doing it. I don't think he ever understood what all the excitement was about. He just liked running, and he could run like the wind. He is however very much a Coonhound with his baying. Buddy has two volumes loud, and quiet. There is noting in between. Thankfully, I have always had very tolerant neighbors who appreciated Buddy for who he is, loudness and all.

Buddy has been an amazing dog. Together we have moved multiple times, including nine months of travel in a camper. Buddy will be 12 in a few months, I think he is feeling his age. He still loves to run and play, but he no longer has the stamina of his younger days. His eyesight is failing, his kidneys are as well. The vet said he still could have a few good years, ten more years seems reasonable to me, haha. I know they day will come when I will have to say goodbye to this sweet soul. Until that day, I will buy him only the most comfortable blankets for him to nuzzle into. I will allow him to take up most of the bed and fall asleep to the sound of him snoring like a 90-year-old man, a sound that I have grown accustomed to. I will be forever grateful for the time I had with him. He has my heart forever. I will of course continue taking way too many photos. I may need to buy a larger capacity external hard drive.

Lois Cunniff
Lois Cunniff
Read next: Calling All Wannabe Pet Owners
Lois Cunniff

I am a self- taught photographer. My passion is pet photography, but I also shoot some portrait work as well as landscapes, cityscapes and love long exposure. Animal rescues matter, I donate a portion of my profits to local rescues.

See all posts by Lois Cunniff

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