Buffy and Buckleys to be honored at 2017 Tails on Trails
A terrier-beagle named Buffy is grand marshal for this year's Tails on the Trail.
And he rules Gert and Bob Buckley's hearts and household.
Buffy is one of the Headwaters Animal Shelter's many success stories.
The 9th annual Tails on the Trail takes place this Saturday, June 10 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Heartland Park.
The two-mile walk-a-thon and pet expo helps raise money for animals in need of "forever homes" at the Headwaters Animal Shelter. One hundred percent of proceeds go toward the 400 to 500 animals cared for at the sanctuary each year.
The Headwaters Animal Shelter heavily relies on donations to continue its mission of saving stray, abandoned or abused animals. It does not receive city, state or federal government funding.
Tails on the Trail also celebrates the remarkable companionship between pets and humans.
Buffy's honorary title at this year's event recognizes his owners' compassion and contributions to the Headwaters Animal Shelter.
The Buckleys were a foster family for shelter dogs.
"I've been a volunteer for years and years," Gert, 79, said.
"I chose to foster because I thought I could do good, be helpful," she reflected.
Shortly after the animal shelter opened, the couple helped by walking dogs. Gert's arthritis prevented her from continuing, so staff suggested fostering. The Buckleys began nurturing and socializing dogs at their Long Lake home.
Since January 2004, they have tended to eight foster dogs.
"That worked really well. When I thought they were ready to be adopted or got over whatever ailment they had, I told the shelter they were ready," Gert explained. "We always got to meet the people that were going to adopt."
Gert kept a journal about each dog. It's filled with photographs and memories.
Roadie was the first foster dog. The three-month-old Afghan hound had been starved and abused.
"A lot of them were," said Gert.
He was afraid of everything, but eventually someone fell in love with him.
"That's what counts. He had a good home."
Molly was a stray in the Buckley's neighborhood. They rescued her — curly, matted hair and all — and found a home for her.
"Everyone asks how could you give them up for adoption? I tell them I could hardly wait to get the next one," Gert said. "Every one was different."
"Bear was sooo funny," she recalled of the 95-pound St. Bernard-rottweiler that smashed through a panel of their garage door.
"Big," adds Bobs, 90.
Bear escaped from their garage while the couple was out for a walk.
"He did not like being in a place where he could not see out. There were scratch marks all along the windows of the garage," Gert said.
From that point onward, Bear was kept outdoors whenever the Buckleys left the house. He never caused a problem again.
"He was a good dog," Bob said.
"He was fun. They were all fun," agreed Gert. "We had a lot of fun with the dogs."
Bear was adopted by a local family with a 7-month-old Rottweiler that needed a playmate.
Bear would visit the Buckleys from time to time.
"It was fun to see how they were doing," she said.
Jake, another beagle, was rescued from a shelter in northwest Minnesota that was closing down.
"Jake was so quiet. We never knew he was in the house. Except when we heard him snoring," Gert said.
The Buckleys received a Christmas letter from the Waubun family that adopted Jake.
Daisy, a Corgi-beagle, was found running loose near Laporte.
Meiko was a white, miniature Eskimo.
"He arrives in our household snarling and growling," Gert reads from her journal. "Very unhappy dog. Craved attention so badly, but he was afraid to show it."
Under the Buckley's care, Meiko grew to trust again — and found a forever home at a Minneapolis day care.
"He was a fluffy fur ball. He finally tamed down."
Another Christmas card arrived in the mail, Meiko's loving family hugging their new pet.
Little Orphan Annie was a Hungarian Puli with golden eyes.
"Prettiest coat I've ever seen," Gert said. "She was a pretty dog. Such a happy dog."
She was adopted by someone in Perham.
Buffy was the Buckley's eighth and final foster dog. In August 2005, he arrived with a nasty ear infection that took five months to clear up.
"I could see myself started to get attached to him. He liked to sleep with me," she said. "He was a silly monkey."
They all live in town now.
Buffy is 15 years old, the equivalent of 105 human years. Other than a few cracked teeth, he's in good health.
He'll still sit up for treats. He loves to bury bones in their backyard, coming to the door with a dirty nose and front paws.
"I find he sleeps an awful lot, course who doesn't when you get to be our age?" Gert said, chuckling.
He and the Buckleys will be celebrated on Saturday.
Registration for Tails on the Trail begins at 9 a.m. Pooches and owners assemble at 9:45 a.m. for the Grand March. There will be a special welcome to all adopted pets, walkers and pledgers followed by a pet blessing.
Buffy "and his pack" will be honored at 11:30 a.m.
At noon, a Canine Good Citizen demonstration begins and playful competitions, such as an owner-pet look-a-like contest, doggie musical chairs and doggie tails contest. Prizes will be awarded for the shortest, longest, fanciest and waggiest tails.
Microchipping, Canine Good Citizen testing and an i.d. tag machine are available until 1 p.m.