The Special Animal Who Changed My Life: In this ongoing series on, readers share the inspiring stories of cats, dogs and other beloved animals who have left lasting imprints on their lives.


By Cindy Holbrook
Quitman, Texas

Out of hundreds of farms, why did he pick ours? Out of all the days, why was it the day I happened to be mowing that part of the property? So many variables could have been different to change the outcome of the canine stranger who collapsed beneath our trees.

It’s difficult to take in another animal as a pet when you already have a full house and you can’t see a newcomer fitting into the family — not to mention the extra expense. When we see an animal in distress, we secretly hope someone else will stop and give assistance, but sometimes, we’re just stuck with it. Turns out though, like everything, it has its reasons.

It was a June morning in East Texas, and I was mowing with our lawn tractor. We live a long driveway’s length from a state highway, and I have seen many pets dead on the side of it. This particular morning, I noticed a big, brown heap just under some trees, close to the frontage road. I rode over to investigate, and it looked like a dead dog. I figured he was probably hit by a car and had managed to make it to the trees to die. He was a bag of bones. And he was filthy. His tattered paws were testament to how many miles this poor fellow had traveled.

I turned off the mower, and he opened his eyes. He kind of looked like a Pit Bull breed, only bigger, so I figured I had better keep my distance. I had heard horror stories about Pit Bulls, and this one was hurt. Still, I walked a little closer, and I could see he was in no shape to attack. I decided to go up to the house and bring back water and dog food, thinking he probably wouldn’t be alive when I returned.

But he was.

I knelt down beside the dog, and he lifted his head enough to drink the plastic bowl dry and attempted to eat the food. I scampered back to the house three times to get more water. He had no tags, and his brown coat with white trim was gray with grime. His paws were worn, and he had no hair on his bottom, which, as it turned out, was from biting fleas. He couldn’t have weighed more than 45 or 50 pounds. When I called the vet’s office, I was almost hysterical, crying and pleading for someone to come out. (The office was only two miles up the highway.) I told them he tried to walk but couldn’t stay on his feet more than a few seconds. They said his pelvis might be broken, so I’d better not try to pick him up or move him. They also told me they couldn’t come out to help a stray, because after several calls over the past year, when the vet arrived, the stray had run off.

I hung up in frustration and called my husband at work. I begged him to come home and help me. I had put our watchdog, Millie, a Blue Heeler, in the house until I could figure it all out. My husband came home, and the brown dog responded to his coaxing up the long driveway to the house. The poor hound would walk about five steps and then lie back down. Finally, after 45 minutes, he made it to the backyard, where we laid a blanket under a tree and gave him more food.

Budreaux in Grass With Bone

We didn’t expect him to last the night. But the next morning, his big, brown eyes greeted us happily, and his tail wagged. After six or seven huge bowls of food the previous day, he slowed his consumption and began to walk short distances, checking out our yard. I was still keeping Millie in the house but letting her out the front to potty. She was on a leash and doing her business when the stray walked shakily around the corner. Millie saw him and broke free to attack the intruder. Our guest tried to defend himself with the little energy he had, and luckily I pulled Millie off before any damage was done.

Days passed, and the big fellow was finally able to stay on his feet most of the time. Apparently, nothing was broken, and he was responding to our nurturing and sweet talk. He allowed me to give him a bath in the yard, and I took him to the vet for vaccinations, heartworm preventive and flea treatment. Even Millie accepted him, because his nature was docile and playful, and as long as she remained the alpha and he knew his place, she was OK with him. This was rather puzzling to both me and my husband, since Millie always chased other dogs off the property with a clear warning not to return.

The vet said the brown dog was only a couple of years old. We named him Budreaux.

It’s been three years since that day, and we can’t imagine life without him. He has provided Millie with much-needed company and my husband and I with the joy of having a playful, 100-pound puppy. He is regal-looking, with his brown, shiny coat, his white chest and paws, huge head and white teeth. We had him neutered, and I have apologized to him several times — he seems to understand.

Don’t get me wrong: He isn’t perfect. He’s torn up my porch cushions, dug 3-foot holes in the front yard looking for gophers, and still chases the horses relentlessly, but all in all, he is a great dog and has given us many hours of laughter and love. We never would have sought a second dog for our family, but fate had other plans. We know Budreaux has a past, a story to tell, because he had obviously been on the front seat of a truck before and knew the command “sit.” But we’ll probably never know what happened to him or why he was separated from his master. To my husband and me, just knowing the ending of the story is enough.

Has a special animal changed your life? Share your pet’s story and picture with us at [email protected] for possible publication.

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