25 September 2007

Buster my best childhood friend

David McMahon's question this week brought back many memories about my best friend, when I was a child - my dog Buster.

In 1962 I suffered from a bad bout of encephalitis and spent several weeks in hospital and like any active little “bush baby” taken out of its environment, I was pretty miserable. My hope lay in the fact that friends of the family promised one of their boerbull puppies that would be ready for collection when I was due to leave the hospital.

Buster demolishing my hat. This fuzzy picture was taken forty five years ago with a Baby Browning camera that let in light. It was one of my childhood treasues.

After I was discharged, we stopped in at their farm on the way home and it was with great excitement I chose my puppy. I promptly named him Buster after the dog in Enid Blyton’s Adventurous Four series, much to the horror of my older sister – she felt I could be more original.

I spent the next two weeks at home recuperating and then it was the school holidays. During this time Buster and I bonded and became the best of friends and were inseparable. From day one it was my responsibility to feed him and bath him and see that he had water.

Because we lived so far out of town my two sisters and I went to boarding school, but came home over the weekends. Oh what excitement when I came home, I would be jumped on, sniffed, licked, bitten, slobbered on and generally roughed up by Buster, as if to say, “Don’t leave me like this, but anyway I am glad you are home”.

Buster was probably the reason why I felt secure when roaming around the farm. He was afraid nothing and would take on all comers. He had extremely powerful jaws and could easily crush the shin bone of a Kudu.

My bedroom was a converted outside storeroom. Buster always slept at the end of my bed. When I think back my room must have smelt like a kennel, but I did not care. Doors were never locked in those days; more often than not mine was left open. At night no one (not even family members) were allowed to come into my room – unless Buster gave them permission. On Monday morning when we had to get up early to go back to boarding school, I would always pretend to be asleep, while Buster kept my parents or grandfather at bay, when they came to wake me up. This usually gave me another five minutes in bed.

If anyone picked up a rifle all our dogs would get excited, because they knew it meant we were going into the bush. There was always great disappointment when we went out to shoot for the “pot”, because they had to stay at home, which meant being locked in the house. If Buster was let loose, he would always find me no matter how far I went or how I tried to cover my tracks. My dad taught me that if this happened I must just accept it because he loved me and just wanted to be with me. We could always go out and hunt tomorrow.

We were forced to leave the farm in 1965 during a devastating drought and Buster and I had to adapt to town living. He was the scourge of the neighbourhood where other dogs were concerned – I once saw him take on two German Shepherds and I thought this was the end of my beloved Buster, but within a matter of seconds they had turned tail and run. He came bouncing back as proud as punch with his head held high.

We move quite often after that and Buster eventually ended up with the family in what was then Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), in 1969. After four years of city life we were back in the bush we both loved and where we could be free.

Over the ten years that I had him, Buster and I had much fun and many adventures together.

He was poisoned in 1972 and I buried him in a clearing about a kilometer from the farm house. A sad end to a great buddy.


david mcmahon said...

What an evocative post, Max,

Thanks for taking part. Your Buster sounds like the greatest companion a boy could hope for.

Yes, I do remember the reference to the strange event near where he was buried.

It would be great to read more about your amazing childhood .....

karoline said...

awwww...max...what a wonderful story...i'm sorry he was poisoned...that is so heartless...

such a wonderful tribute you paid to him..