On Saturday, September 28, 2002, my beloved Maltese, Buster, died after a very brief bout with liver cancer. Buster was not quite six years old. He was taken from me very quickly and suddenly and much too soon.

On Wednesday, September 18, Buster refused to eat his breakfast. Of all my dogs, Buster has always been the most enthusiastic eater, wanting to eat his and everyone else's too. So when I just couldn't get him to eat I knew something was wrong. A physical exam, blood tests, x-rays, and two hospitalizations proved fruitless in pinpointing the cause of Buster's distress. On Friday, September 27, Buster came home from his second hospitalization. I noticed that on the rare occasions when he tried to walk, he was very unsteady on his feet. My vet said his unsteadiness was due to liver damage and that it would get worse "over time." Little did I know the next morning my Buster would be unable to walk at all. It was then that my vet recommended exploratory surgery to get to the bottom of Buster's problem. He advised me that if it was liver cancer, as he suspected, it would be best to euthanize Buster without waking him from the anesthesia. Otherwise, we would discuss whatever treatment options were available.

Unfortunately, Buster did have liver cancer that had spread to his abdomen. I had said my goodbyes to him prior to his surgery, not knowing if it was goodbye forever or if he would come back to me with a host of medications. After he was gone, though, I had to see him one more time. His little body was so still and so peaceful. It was the most peaceful I had seen him in many days. Throughout his illness, his eyes took on a different look, like he knew his time was coming. They just did not have their usual spark to them, their usual life and vibrancy. His eyes reflected a sense of resignation, that he was tired and needed to rest.

There are so many things I miss about my Buster Boy. His favorite thing was eating. After toileting, he would charge into the house and almost skid past his food dish in an attempt to get to his food. He was a voracious begger. No matter what anyone was eating, he wanted to be first, middle, and last in line to get a bite! He also loved sleeping on the bed. He knew instinctively when I was going to bed, and he would race into the bedroom, hop up and down on his hind legs, grinning from ear to ear, and wait for me to help him onto the bed. Once there, he loved sleeping in front of the fan that's at the foot of our bed.

Although we have seven other dogs, I have found the house to be unusually quiet since Buster has been gone. He was definitely the barker of the group. His shrill, high-pitched bark could wake the dead! His absence has been sharply felt. Even my two-year-old son wondered yesterday where Buster was. It is just not the same without him. His vitality, his energy, his zest for life, his endless appetite, his whimsical, piercing bark, his happy face, his infrequent but heartfelt kisses -- I miss these things all so much. There will never be another Buster, that is for sure.

When I get to Heaven, I hope Buster will be there to greet me. I hope he will tell me that I did the right thing for him, that he has enjoyed an abundance of life and health and vigor since he left this earth. I hope to have the chance once again to hold him, kiss his face and tell him how desperately and deeply he was loved. I hope my little Buster knew that as he drew his last breath.

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