Buffy, the Healing Puppy

Who knew a fluffly cockapoo could mend a woman's broken heart?

By Marilyn A. Gelman


I am sixty-two years old and allergic to dogs. I never owned a dog before, much less a puppy. Yet these nights I share my lumpy mattress with a cockapoo named Buffy.

It didn’t start out that way. She slept in her crate in the kitchen until an old diesel Mercedes caught fire in a driveway six feet from my leaky windows. Fumes permeated our small house. When I returned from treatment for smoke inhalation, I brought Buffy into my room to sleep; the air was slightly better there.

Since then, she howls if she is not in bed with me. To tell the truth, I miss her too. In a misguided effort to separate dog and woman, I created a special place for her at the foot of my bed, piling items for her comfort as follows: folded top sheet, waterproof pad, late son’s old art project towel, and slightly chewed fleece bedding she had slept under in her crate. A smelly piece of braided yarn, a favorite toy, decorates her bed on a bed.

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Buffy has taken over half the remaining bed, choosing to sleep parallel to, not atop, her special setup. I wrap myself around the remaining real estate like a disproportioned capital L. The top half of my body is positioned at a sharp angle from the bottom half, and important parts of me rest on a wayward spring in the mattress. If the spring pokes me, I wonder,will I need a tetanus shot? 

People who live with dogs say their appeal is the unconditional love dogs give. But to me, the opposite is true. My dog’s special appeal is her willingness to accept love from me. I have always enjoyed simple physical intimacies; a firm handshake, a casual touch on the shoulder, a quick hug from a friend.

These intimacies were taken from me when a BMW crashed into my life. No one touched me except doctors. As I became isolated at home, old friends faded away, and I had no chance to make new ones. There were no full body hugs,strokes or casual embraces given or gotten.No one welcomed my caresses.

Now I have a pup who sits on my lap on occasion. I can touch her, pet her and groom her. She rests at my feet so that I cannot move without her knowledge. She makes me burst out laughing. It feels so good. Buffy is a social butterfly.

My injuries had made me a hermit. Now, I return waves and smiles from passersby when we sit on the front porch. They’re smiling and waving at her, but she takes me with her into the social world I had missed for so long. To the amusement of folks around here, Buffy has two strollers.

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They are for my benefit, not hers, I explain in vain. Balance problems have kept me close to home; stroller handles are the right height to hang onto for support. So I pile the Buffy into a stroller and take off for widening circles around the block.

Sometimes it’s a little too chilly for a dog just to sit in a stroller, so I put a red, quilted, fleece-lined jacket on her or maybe a pink turtleneck sweater with cable stitching and sequins. “Fine dress,” laughs the neighbor down the block, new to English, but able to turn a phrase or two. “Oh, so she can walk,” he said when he saw Buffy on a leash. 

His wife explains that the dog is like a family member to me, and I dispute her.  But how can I make my case while wearing an outfit that matches my dog’s?

I had some misgivings about getting a puppy, but my doctor encouraged me to try. “Everything is harder for you,” the doctor said, “and this will be too. But just think of the possible benefit.” He knew that social isolation was one of the most difficult aspects of my injury and that caring for a puppy could be just the thing to ease me back into humanity. And so I bit.

I wanted to name the pup Beautyrest, because I used my mattress money for her.  The breeder dissuaded me, saying,“Imagine calling your dog. Your neighbors will think you are calling your mattress.”

She also vetoed Gussie as old-fashioned, even though both our grandmothers shared the name and made great stuffed cabbage.  So my first-generation mix of cocker spaniel and poodle became Buffy–Buffarina Ballerina, in full.

This article is excerpted from Their Mysterious Ways Too.

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Your Comments (6)

Thank you, Marilyn, for sharing your story. May God bless you and supply all your needs.

Look no further Marilyn; the mechanism or instrument you search which heals your heart? It's Love from our creator passed through that 4-paw fuzzy little critter, Buffy. I have 4 dogs of my own now and 3 are rescues. They only wanted to give love. It's the simplest things in the littlest quanitities that touch and affect us the deepest. Remember, you ARE truly blessed.

Thank you for your warm Buffy story. My
12 "Buffy"died 2 months ago. She helped mend my heart when my husband died 6 years ago. They truly are a gift from God. I just picked up my new puppy Aime, which means friend. I am 68 and like you have discovered the healing, joy and laughter from these loving creatures.

May you be blessed with many years of enjoymeny.

Thank you Ms. Gelman for sharing your wonderful story. I know a thing or two about broken hearts and I am so glad that your heart is healing by the purest form of love between you and your 4 legged daughter. She is a gorgeous girl and she seems full of vitality and joy for life. Wish you both much health, laughter and love. PS: You have a gift for writing. Your story now is one of my favorites!! Keep up the great work :)
Jackie Schuck

Thank you for sharing Marilyn Gelman's story about Buffy! Buffy's picture is delightful! I have or we have two healing kitties who need a lot of care, but who are family members. My two children were taken from me by two perpetrators, which has been traumatic and heart breaking. Their vet knows that they are a part of my therapy. They were named by my children and were going to be their kitties. But, unfortunately, the institutions failed to help in this ordeal. I have these kitties, prayers for my now grown children, and my Good Samaritan friend who cares for me. So many thanks for sharing this wonderful story. Sincerely, Laura Gustoson

The story on the Meerkats was so sweet, what a treat for the photographer.