A Dog Named Buddy’s Legacy
Taking a shortcut through the town dump on a late Saturday afternoon was a regular routine for the boys of North Sudbury and this Saturday in late March of 1961 was no exception. Saturday was the busiest day of the week at the dump and it was always worth a quick look to see what “treasure” might have been abandoned by the more well-to-do residents from the south side of town.
The dump was actually a depleted and abandoned sand pit that the Town was slowly filling up with trash. It bore no resemblance to today’s landfills. Townspeople simply backed their cars to the edge of the pit and tossed their trash down the slope. Every once in a while, someone would touch a match to the mess and the resulting fire would last for days.
The boys climbed down to the bottom of the pit and started working their way diagonally across its face. The pickings looked pretty slim. No abandoned bikes or broken lawn mowers that could be easily fixed and sold for a couple of bucks. Nothing but paper bags full of trash.
Suddenly one of the boys stopped in his tracks and cupped a hand behind his ear. “Hear that?“
“Sounds like a baby crying. Do you hear it?“
Spreading out, the boys followed the cries to a burning brown paper bag. In it they discovered a half-frozen, two-day-old black puppy, it’s hair singed by the flames. Running home, they enlisted the aid of their parents and delivered the pup to Dog Officer Harry Rice on Water Row. Rice pointed the finger of suspicion on a Sudbury resident.
“This is not the first occurrence of this kind in the area,” Rice told the Fence Viewer. “About a year ago a mother beagle and her brood of newborn puppies were found at the Wayland town dump. The mother managed to chew her way out of the shopping bag and thus, she and her babies were saved. A few years ago in North Sudbury, puppies five to six weeks old were found abandoned by the side of the road.“
The little pup, nicknamed “Buddy,” quickly became the talk of the town and the Rice phone rang off the hook with requests for progress reports. Rice fed it milk every hour but had a terrible time finding a rubber nipple for a doll’s bottle. The plastic nipple commonly sold with these toys didn’t have enough “give” to allow the milk to come through.
“Sure, some people will say I should have disposed of the dog as soon as I received it, but the brutality behind the act got under my skin and I’m trying to save the pup.” he said. “I hope public disclosure of this brutality will bother the conscience of the person who did it, maybe bother his wife a bit, because, I didn’t know we had human beings as low as this around here. It’s completely unnecessary in this day and in this area to have to resort to such heartless means to dispose of an unwanted creature.“
Buddy’s plight made the front page of the Fence Viewer on April 6 along with the announcement of a $50 reward offered by an anonymous Sudbury resident for the identity of the person who left the pup at the dump. Rice announced that it was a close squeak, but he thought the pup would live.
Rice explained that regulations provided that he keep stray or unclaimed dogs from five to seven days before sending them to the Harvard Medical School for experimentation. He admitted that he often kept them longer–and even bought a few–because many are potentially excellent pets.
When a private person turned in a dog to the dog officer, the owner paid $1 a day until the dog was placed. Since neither the town or county had funds to pay the expenses of humane extermination, many dogs wound up at Harvard, something Rice said he didn’t like to see.
Buddy died suddenly, barely two weeks after being found, but his passing heightened the sensitivity to the fate of stray dogs in Sudbury. On April 20, a letter to the editor of the Fence Viewer suggested the formation of a humane league to pay for euthanasia and cremation. By the Fourth of July, the Buddy Dog Humane Society had been founded with Alfred Halper as President, John Powers as Clerk and Augustus F. Doty, Mrs. Henry L. Nelson, Mrs. Ernest Lukas and Ed Kreitsek as charter members.
“Our basic goal is to give a new lease on life by staying execution to dogs who are friendly or healthy, and, for one cause or another, in the pound,” Halper explained. “Among our long-range plans is the formation of a Buddy Dog chapter in every Massachusetts city and town–and eventually all over the United States–which will care for the dogs in its local pound.“
Halper noted that, under current law, these animals are sent to vivisection hospitals or put to sleep. Buddy Dog began purchasing dogs just before their seven-day grace period was up. In less than a month with no fanfare or publicity it had already found homes for ten of the 12 “Buddy Dogs” thus far purchased.
The entry of Buddy Dog’s “Stop The Executions” float in Sudbury’s Independence Day parade marked the official opening of a concentrated drive for additional membership and funds to extend the pilot Sudbury program to other areas in the Commonwealth. Halper kicked off the fund drive with a $1,000 donation.
Plans called for a public relations program to elevate “Buddy Dogs” to the social strata enjoyed by their pedigreed brothers and sisters. Local branches would be established across the state and a central clearinghouse would transfer dogs from “surplus” areas to “demand” areas. Rice was delighted: “It’s like a dream that has finally come true,” he said.
The dream didn’t waste much time becoming reality. Buddy Dog established a temporary shelter for homeless dogs on Rice’s farm on Water Row. By December, the Society had placed nearly 60 dogs in good homes. Eighty percent were rescued from local pounds just before their day of execution and the additional 20 percent were left by distressed owners.
Word of the Association began to spread across New England. After Rice and Lillie Nelson appeared with a basket of puppies on the WHDH-TV Key Club Show, eight ladies from Winchester arrived one morning with dog food and cash for care and comfort of recently rescued dogs.
In 1964 the Society’s headquarters moved to the Betsy DeWallace property on Dakin Road in North Sudbury while the search for a permanent home continued. The 1971 Town Meeting granted a zoning by-law change that would allow the Society to build its headquarters in a business zone, but it wasn’t until December 17, 1975 that ground was broken for the present state-of-the-art kennel facility on Route 20 near the Wayland line. The land was purchased at a very favorable price from Boston Edison, and a great deal of the physical labor was supplied by volunteers.
When the new kennel opened in 1976, current Managing Director Michael Courchaine came aboard as an intern and immediately started organizing a program for the placement of cats as well as dogs. The cat program ran unofficially for ten years before an official policy was established for cats in 1986, the Society’s 25th anniversary year.
“Over these years our policy has not changed,” said Kreitsek. “For homeless dogs we provide warm shelter, food, medical care, grooming and attendants who really care. There is no limit to how long our guests stay with us. We will care for them until the right adoptive owner comes to claim them. Many dogs live with us for months, some have for a year or longer, and then find a loving new home to share in return for affection, gratitude and loyalty.“
The Society established a spay-neuter program in the early ’80s, and, by 1998, no animal leaves the kennel until it has been spayed or neutered. Today Buddy Dog accepts more cats than dogs and finds homes for more than 2,500 animals a year. “Buddy’s” legacy lives on.
Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Sudbury, 1890-1989, 100 years in the life of a Town, a 256-page sequel to A.S. Hudson’s History of Sudbury. Autographed copies are available from Porcupine Enterprises, 106 Woodside Road, Sudbury, MA 01776. Hardbound presentation copies are $26.25 including tax plus $3.20 postage. Trade paperbacks are $12.60 including tax plus $3.20 postage.