Tailwalking Buddy

Not that many years ago, a Border collie puppy named Buddy was born beneath a row of slacks that hung within my closet.

Alissa, our daughter in law, holding Buddy as a puppy

This puppy along with two other older Border collies would one day drive off a pack of marauding coyotes that, under cover of darkness, had stolen up behind Buddy’s human companions.This was the puppy who eventually would grow into an adept ranch dog capable of breaking up fights between huge bulls and of skillfully moving a cattle herd across our ranch.

A young Buddy

This was the patient dog who spent six weeks at my side while I, not so patiently, waited out a painful back injury. This was the puppy that would eventually grow into a wise old dog and who has now entered his dotage. In short, Buddy has now grown old.

Six months ago Buddy passed his 14th birthday. While his eyesight and hearing are not as keen as they once were, his major physical limitation relates to his mobility. You see, his rear end tends to give away, causing him to unceremoniously plop down. His collapse is usually followed by his soulful eyes pleading for a bit of help to regain his four footed stance. Trudy or I will then help him to his feet and allow him to get underway. We have found that by holding onto his tail and slightly elevating it, he is far more capable of walking without falling. This maneuver seems to aid Buddy’s balance and walking. We refer to this as tailwalking Buddy.

For a dog as independent-minded as a Border collie, it is surprising that Buddy accepts our tailwalking, but Buddy has a way of accepting gracefully his limitations that accompany his aging. I never thought acceptance would become one of his traits along with his intelligence, herding ability, and loyalty to his human companions.

Buddy also must now wear a belly band and incontinence pad. We suspect Buddy’s leakage also relates to his old spinal cord injury.

Notice the belly band around Buddy

Our method proves effective but requires us to buy large amounts of incontinence products at the grocery store and order his male belly belts online. Together this combination of items has saved spotting around the house. Again Buddy accepts the belly belt and pad without seeming to question. When he enters the house he waits patiently just inside the door for Trudy or me to fasten into place his padded doggie belt. (I worry as to what the store clerks must think about Trudy buying such large quantities of male incontinence pads! Fredericksburg is, after all, a fairly small town.)

Trudy and I have made other modifications around the house including elevating Buddy’s dog bowl to make it easier for him to eat, placing runners in our tiled bathroom to facilitate Buddy making it to his elevated dog bowl without falling down, and lifting Buddy into and out of the padded bed of my pickup.

We are unclear as to why Buddy shows progressive walking impairment. We do know that years ago Buddy suffered a spinal cord injury from a ruptured disc that briefly left him with paralyzed hind limbs. We suspect this is the likely cause, worsening now with his advancing age. With patience and rehab Buddy following his original injury gained a normal gait although never achieving full strength in his hind legs. Border collies also may develop hip dysplasia that could also be a contributing factor.

Trudy tailwalking Buddy


At times Buddy whimpers, yelps, and pants, all symptoms that suggest he is in pain. Learning this our veterinarian prescribed pain pills. These pills have helped. Nevertheless, nighttime is the worst time for Buddy. Trudy and I have spent many nights letting Buddy in and out of the house, requiring us to tailwalk him up and down the stairs to the yard, laying on the floor attempting to comfort him (he sleeps under the bed), and providing middle of the night snacks. Our list of interventions is short but repeatable. It is also exhausting.

A recent addition of a second pain medicine has provided further benefit. Nevertheless, on a daily basis we seem to see an overall worsening of Buddy’s mobility. His decline inevitably brings up the wracking question as to how long we should proceed with our Buddy routines in light of Buddy’s  discomfort. If Buddy stopped eating, lost his zeal to travel in the pickup, or no longer showed his love of life, the decision would become much easier. For now Trudy and I will help our aging Buddy dog to travel around the house and yard by holding his tail and dutifully trailing along behind him. Metaphorically speaking, is not this what Buddy has always done for us?

I’m here for you my human companions

Tom and Buddy


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8 thoughts on “Tailwalking Buddy

  1. La Nelle Ethridge July 5, 2020 at 4:41 pm Reply

    Oh, every dog should be loved and care for in this manner. May he let you know clearly when he is ready to move to the next plain. Give him a pat on the head.

  2. tomhuttonmd July 5, 2020 at 9:11 pm Reply

    Thank you La Nelle. Wish you would visit and pat Buddy on the head in person. Your dogs are welcome.

  3. Judy July 5, 2020 at 10:03 pm Reply

    I just hate this for Buddy and for you and Trudy. Our canine families are such a part of us.

  4. Judy July 5, 2020 at 10:03 pm Reply

    I just hate this for Buddy and for you and Trudy. Our canine families are such a part of us.

  5. cselness July 5, 2020 at 10:38 pm Reply

    Buddy is properly named. He is a great friend. It’s a pleasure to know him; and you and Trudy are great friends too. It runs in the family.

  6. Bill Balch July 8, 2020 at 6:35 pm Reply

    The aging and eventual loss of a treasured pet is one of life’s tragedies. We see it coming, yet are powerless to slow it. Our Tucker is fourteen, exhibiting the same behaviors as Buddy. We cherish these last months, days, and hours. We are preparing, mentally and emotionally, for the inevitable. Thanks for your wisdom, and for your heart.

  7. Madeline July 14, 2020 at 4:01 pm Reply

    I love this sweet story. A wise spiritual teacher once said, “We’re all just walking each other home.” You and Trudy are now literally “tailwalking” your dear friend Buddy Home these days, and clearly, with great love and gratitude for all the roads you three have walked together through the years. It is a beautiful picture of what this life is all about – for all of us. Thank you for sharing this.

  8. tomhuttonmd July 14, 2020 at 7:22 pm Reply

    Thank you Madeline for your lovely response. You said it in such poetic language. Thank you again.

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