News Columns & Blogs

So long, Buster, you’ll be missed

Editor’s note:

Today, we remember the late Bill Morem, former Tribune reporter, editor and columnist, by republishing excerpts from two of his columns that first appeared in 2011. Some of the facts and figures have changed, but the needs of two nonprofit organizations that Bill often featured in his columns — Prado Day Center and Woods Humane Society — are as acute as ever.

In lieu of flowers, the Morem family requests that donations be made to Prado Day Center and Woods Humane Society. Checks to Woods Humane Society can be mailed to 875 Oklahoma Ave., San Luis Obispo, CA 93405, or make an online donation at Donations to Friends of Prado Day Center can be mailed to P.O. Box 12444, San Luis Obispo, CA 93406 or make a donation online at

It’s been a week now and our pug, Bailey, still can’t seem to understand that her companion is gone. She patrols the house, the yard, the neighborhood, my Jeep, snuffling her absurdly short snout in an effort to sniff out her pal of 13 years. Her heart seems to be as broken as her appetite; The Lovely Sharita and I share her despair.

So, in honor of a life lived well, a life that left no six-week-old crust of bread unexamined, I offer this elegy for Buster, our wonder dog and family member who died last Thursday night at the stroke of 9:25 p.m.

Our daughter, Cait, was 9 when she decided it was one thing to have cats, but another thing entirely to have a dog, and thus the psychological dripping began.

For the next year, every conceivable situation was given the disclaimer: Yes, but it would be better with a dog. Such as: “Going to the beach? Yes, but it would be better with a dog.” Or, “Brush my teeth? Yes, but it would be better with a dog!”

You get the picture.

As anyone with a determined 10-year-old daughter who’s dead-set on a dog fully understands, our resolve eroded under the drip-drip-drip of how our lives would be magically transformed if only we had a dog. So we got Bailey, a year-old pug who’d been wrangled into being a traveling companion with a professional rodeo rider out of Atascadero.

And then we read up on pugs.

As it turns out, pugs don’t do solo. It’s alleged they’ll die of loneliness if their owners work out of the house during the day and there’s no one home with whom to hang (cats don’t count, sorry). So it was off to Woods Humane Society to find Bailey’s companion boy toy.

It has to be noted that every single dog at Woods (and Animal Services) deserves a home, but it was the red ID card above Buster’s door that sealed the deal: he liked table scraps, liked car rides (but threw up in same after eating table scraps) and, finally, would sit up like a circus dog. Well, there was no going back from there as he dutifully sat up in his cage, paws resting on his chest.

We’d paid our adoption fees when the young man at the counter asked if we’d like Buster’s papers. Thinking he meant adoption papers, we said sure. As it turned out, Buster was an AKC-registered purebred lemon beagle, a breed distinguished by two colors (red and white), girth (they look like long-legged Basset hounds) and so smart with such sweet dispositions that they’re used as service dogs.

We discovered his full name was Buster the Dodger Malone and that his father was Champion Hound’s Hollow Get Up And Go. We further learned that his owner had only reluctantly given him up after her two Maine Coon cats had used him as a four-legged scratching post.

Buster and Bailey became inseparable while lounging around the house, taking their daily tours of the neighborhood and on their walks at the beach.

On that note, I last wrote about Buster when several dogs attacked him last May while we were at a Baywood Park dog beach. Through the good work of his veterinarian, Dr. Taralyn Meusel at Los Osos Pet Hospital, he seemed to mend with his dolphin-like smiles and goofy grins intact. Unknown to us, the incident may have led to traumatic deafness, which was profound over the ensuing year.

And so he aged, grew more fatty tumors and began to exhibit a slower gait. Although he gave up going to the beach, he still made his daily rounds to several neighbors’ homes, finishing off any errant kitty or dog vittles carelessly left for the pickin’s.

But his time on the mortal coil was winding down. A couple of weeks ago, we took him to Taralyn, had blood drawn, and were prescribed pain pills and something for his thyroid, which we were told would be with him for the rest of his life — which, as it turned out, was about a week’s worth.

We got home from work last week and found that he’d lost the use of his back right leg, just like that. We made the decision to put him down and penciled an appointment with Taralyn for Friday at 10:30 a.m.

The night before his final sleep, we gave him a peanut butter-slathered pain pill, and he lay down on his favorite spot on the hearth in our living room.

By 7 p.m. his breathing became labored as we stroked and talked to him, telling him what he meant to us, silently asking that his ordeal end. And it did.

At 9:25 he took two deep breaths in succession and was gone. We held him and we cried for our beloved Buster, a bona fide member of the Morem clan, on his way into the mystic — sniffing out whatever six-week-old bread crusts he may find on his way.

Thank you, Buster. See you in our dreams.

Reach Bill Morem at or at 781-7852.