Last week we announced that K. Anne Russell’s BUDDY TAILS was our new Kids Corner Book of the Week and the sponsor of thousands of great bargains in the Kids Book category: over 250 free titles, over 500 quality 99-centers, and hundreds more that you can read for free through the Kindle Lending Library if you have Amazon Prime!
Now we’re back to offer a free Kids Corner excerpt, and if you aren’t among those who have downloaded this one already, you’re in for a treat!
by K. Anne Russell
in its Audible Audio Edition, Unabridged!
Buddy Boutonniere, a big-hearted Standard Poodle, subsists in the bare backyard of a tract home in the desert city of Yucca Dunes. MacKenzie, a Border Collie, and Javier, a Chihuahua, provide Buddy with companionship and bring him food scraps when his neglectful owners forget to provide for him.
When Buddy’s owners decide to move, Buddy meets a wonderful lady who visits his house with prospective buyers. The poodle’s humans try to sell their dog and Buddy goes through a series of unsuitable living situations. The final family returns Buddy to the tract home not realizing the owners are out of town. His only lifeline, MacKenzie, is killed by an evil Hummer driver while bringing him food. Tiny Javier tries to support Buddy with the aid of Dumb Derek, a Rottweiler whose brain is damaged from years of guarding a chemical dump. The two are unable to help the poodle.
Buddy dies, but is brought back to life by Sonny, the Good Shepherd. Sonny grants Buddy’s wish to go live with the wonderful lady, in return for his promise to go with Sonny when he comes back for him. Buddy has a happy life with the lady and her dog, Skootch. Together they rescue abandoned Leroy and abused Roxanne. Years later, during Skootch’s fifteenth birthday party, Sonny comes for Buddy. True to his word, he goes without complaint.
Sonny takes Buddy to Haven, the canine paradise, where he is reunited with MacKenzie. Sonny explains the rules in Haven; dogs acquire free will and give up their role of caring for humans. Their only responsibility is to help guide other dogs to Haven. Buddy excels at guiding, but on a mission to bring back a bomb dog from Afghanistan, Buddy breaks the rule and helps a human, the dog’s Marine partner.
The residents of Haven are furious with the poodle and he is exiled to the perimeter of paradise. There he meets a young girl who has died of cancer and befriends her, another infraction of the rules. He is dragged before the communal tribunal, where MacKenzie defends him. With the help of the marine and the girl, MacKenzie convinces the judges that Buddy is not an offender, but a hero.
Buddy’s story teaches young readers about the bonds of love and friendship, the role of free will in building character, the importance of responsibility in our lives, especially as it relates to animal welfare, and the acceptance of death as part of life’s journey for ourselves and our pets.
Materials for parents, teachers and kids at –
Doggie illustrations were provided by Ron Ruelle (http://www.ronruelle.com).
And here, for your reading pleasure, is our free excerpt:
Buddy Boutonniere was not the sort of dog you’d expect to find in our neighborhood, and that’s a fact. In Yucca Dunes, tastes in canines ran to Chihuahuas, American Pit Bull Terriers and the occasional Rottweiler. I’m a Border Collie, a bit of a standout myself, but I had an important job at a local golf course, so I belonged. Buddy was a poodle, and not just any piddly-diddly little poodle. He was a Standard Poodle, white as the snow on Mount San Jacinto and tall as its craggy peaks. Yep, he was one long cool drink of milk. He had a frizzy hairdo, ears as big as window curtains, a nose broad enough for roadrunner landings and the silliest tail you ever saw. It looked like a cross between spun cottoncandy and a tumbleweed.
We poked good natured fun at him every chance we got,
Javier and I. Javier was my Chihuahua pal, who considered himself
some kind of Hispanic cultural hero, the Zorro of the back
alleys. That little guy had a crusader’s heart in a chili pepper package.
Truth is he was so short and skinny, Javier had trouble casting
a shadow. He was always afraid of being squashed by some
two-legged dude in cross-trainers the size of skateboards, so he
hung with me for protection when he managed to escape from
Guess I should introduce myself. I’m MacKenzie. That’s a firstclass
name for a female herding dog. Javier always said I never
got it out of my blood. Even after I retired from the golf gig, I
couldn’t help myself, always wanting to look after folks and guide
them in the right direction. Buddy’s situation sure brought out
the mother in me.
Javier and I stopped by Buddy’s place nearly every day. Buddy
was dealt a bad hand in the human department. His people were
clueless about our kind. Warren and Lulu Swindell got him for
their daughter, Brianna, who went off to college without so much
as a hi-dee-ho. The parents didn’t realize Buddy would get so big.
HellllOOOOOOO! Anyway, they exiled Buddy to the yard, where
he made do with a lean-to for shelter from the desert sun and
a stunted jacaranda tree for scenery. I preferred my life on the
street to the prison he called home.
My pequeño pal and I visited frequently, because Bud’s people
were not only stupid and unfeeling, they were negligent. Had
a habit of going away for days and forgetting to leave enough
food and water. We made a point of checking on Buddy, because
if they had left him short again, I could pick up a snack for him
from the trashcans behind McDonald’s up on Palm Tree Street.
Thing that got me was that Buddy never complained. He took
what life threw at him. Believe me, it wasn’t much, but he always
had a smile and a kind word. He had a disposition as sweet as
desert flowers after a flash rain and a heart as big as the Mojave.
I’m going to tell you Buddy’s story. I witnessed most of it firsthand,
and my pals filled me in on the rest. It’s a roller coaster of a
tale, with more twists and turns than a jackrabbit chase down the
arroyo. I guess it’s my story too. I was one smug sister. I thought
I knew how things were, but that peach of a pooch turned my
canine cosmos on its ear.
Those dunderheads the Swindells did get one thing right
though—his name. Buddy Boutonniere. Buddy was just the sort
of mellow guy who would go through life with a blossom in his
buttonhole, if he’d had a button hole. That’s why it’s so strange he
turned out to be the one who broke the biggest rule of all.
That Tuesday in May was a typical visit. I remember it like it was yesterday. Javier was wearing his fancy green and red collar.
“It’s for Cinco de Mayo. Don’t you guys know anything?” Javier shrugged first one, then the other shoulder, so his nametag hung properly.
Buddy poked his nose between the bars of the gate to the Swindell backyard. “It looks very nice on you. I wish I had a colored collar.”
“Yeah, Bud, what were they thinking, giving you that matte
black? Yuck! I see you in peacock blue.” Javier, whose coat was
the color of sand dunes at daybreak, took great pride in his
Sometimes I got impatient with these two. “Would you guys
give it a rest with the fashion report? Here, Bud.” I shoved a bag
of fries through the bars. “I picked these up for you on the way
over. When was the last time you ate?”
“Thanks, Mac.” Buddy sniffed the wrapper, his big nostrils
flaring in appreciation. He selected some fries and chewed, his
eyes closing. After a swallow and a smack of ebony lips, he answered.
“Ummmm, these are wonderful. I stretched out what
they left for me, but I ran short yesterday morning.”
“I know how you like your frites, mon ami.” I never forgot
they were his favorite.
“We gotta get him some carne asada. After that, he will spit
on those fries.” Javier waltzed over and leaned on the bars.
“I’m sure I would like that, too. I loved the tacos you brought.”
“Javier insisted I stop at Taco Bell. He can’t carry much himself.”
I tried to see around Buddy into the backyard where the
water bowl was. If it was empty, he would be forced to drink pool
water, which wasn’t good for him.
“Hey, just because I couldn’t manage the Burrito Supreme,
you don’t have to be acting all grande muchacha.”
“No offense intended.” I nosed Javier gently on the top of his
Buddy shook the last of the fries on the ground. One bounced
toward the wall, and he walked over to retrieve it. I got a full view
of the empty bowl, and my hackles rose. “Buddy, why don’t you
go on a barking jag? Bother the neighbors so they call Animal
“Si, your people are being cruel to you, man.” Javier bounced
up on his little legs, looking for all the world like he was going to
get in the ring with somebody.
“I couldn’t do that. They’re just forgetful. Brianna was very
“Brianna’s history. Gone off to college, Bud.” In my opinion,
he needed to stop making excuses for them. “You’re left with the
two duds she has for parents.”
“They’ll be home soon and will fill my dish.”
“I think this is one case where you’re justified in biting the
hand that feeds you.” His brow wrinkled in a furious knot, Javier
nodded toward the empty container.
“There are dogs starving all over this valley. I am thankful for
the home I have and loyal to my humans.” Buddy finished the last
of the potatoes, licked the wrapper, and tucked the paper under
his dish so it couldn’t blow into the pool. “Thank you for the treat,
Mac. It was scrumptious.”
“I’ll be back later with something for your dinner.”
“I wish I could do something for you.” Buddy leaned his forehead
on the bars of the locked gate.
“You can, muchacho. Howl your head off, so we can have
ringside seats when they come to give Seńor Swindell a citation.”
Javier was dancing now, his nails tapping on the concrete. “We’d
love to see that come down, man.”
“Cool it, Salsa King,” I said. “Buddy doesn’t like to make
“I don’t have your hot Latin blood.” Buddy winked at Javier.
“You got a warm heart, big guy. That much I know.” Javier
squeezed through the bars, waited for Buddy to lean his big head
down, and licked him on the chin. Those big poodle ears folded
down around Javier like a matador’s cape.
Later that night, I brought Buddy the remains of a Big Mac, but the next day Javier and I didn’t get over to his place until mid-afternoon. A car sat in the driveway, and a stake with a sign on it jutted out of the front lawn.
I greeted Buddy with a lick on the cheek. “When did that turn up?”
“This morning. A man came with it in his trunk. What does it
“I know what it means.” Javier strutted over to the stake and
peed on it. “They put one of those up next door. Next thing we
knew, the people who lived there went away and new people
moved in. I still miss the little girl from the first family. She used
to rub my belly.”
“Oh, my.” Buddy’s gaze fell to his paws. His front legs were
straight up and down like palm trunks. “I wonder where we could
be going. How will you find me?”
“If you’re in this valley, pal, I’ll find you.” My voice sounded
more confident than I felt.
Javier passed through the fence bars and surveyed Buddy’s
yard. Except for the pool and a bench in need of some varnish,
it was little more than a cement box. “Let’s not panic yet, amigo.
Perhaps they will not be successful in finding others to take their
place. This is not very attractive, to dogs or people.”
I was trying to think of something reassuring to say to Buddy
when I heard it. I was halfway across the yard and picking up
speed before Javier figured out what was happening.
“Mac, stop! You could get hurt.” Javier shot back through the
gate, his voice rising to a shrill squeak.
Buddy gasped and banged into the bars as if he could part
them. “It’s the Hummer! No, MacKenzie, don’t chase it.”
I heard them. They were far away, like the voice of my conscience,
but I could no more stop than I could change the color
of my fur. I hated that Hummer. I hated its metallic growl and the
smelly gray streaks its left on the road when it turned. Most of all
I hated the man who drove the moving black mountain.
I fell in behind the beast as it cruised past Buddy’s house. The
harsh sounds blaring from its windows fueled my anger. Barks
flew from my throat like summer thunder. The thing picked up
speed and sailed away from me, smoke spewing out of its tail like
the beginning of a brush fire.
Panting, I trotted to a halt at the next street, the taste of oil
fouling my tongue. Someday, I would catch that evil man and get
even for Howie.
I returned to Buddy’s place in time to see his humans packing
their car with suitcases. Javier had curled himself up in Buddy’s
shadow, and the two watched as Warren Swindell eased his
paunch behind the wheel and closed the dusty station wagon’s
I collapsed on the walk, my panting more under control, as
the car backed into the street.
“Carumba, they could have waved at you, Bud.” Javier shook
his head and stretched.
“They filled my bowls, and I got table scraps at lunchtime.”
“Big of ‘em.” Javier leaned over Buddy’s food dish and sniffed.
His nostrils wrinkled as if he were smelling road kill.
Buddy changed the subject, sliding his paw through the
bars until it touched my hind foot. “Mac, I know you hate that
Hummer, but you must be more careful. It is a contest you cannot
win. Howie would not want you to be taking such risks.”
“We’ll see.” I sat up, perked my ears and a ring of fire gripped
my heart. I could just detect the growl of the wicked thing in the
distance as it sped through our neighborhood.
In the weeks to come, Buddy’s life changed for the better. The boredom he endured at the Swindell homestead was broken by a parade of humans. People arrived in groups of two or
three, toured the house, examined the yard, craned their necks to study the roof and the chimney of the trim little house, and returned to their cars chattering like crows on a newly
Javier pumped Buddy for details about the visitors, mostly
about their shoes. The bigger the shoes, the wider Javier’s eyes
got as Buddy described the visitors, until I was sure they would
pop out and roll into the rose bed.
Buddy was happy to share his news even though we realized
that the tours would end and he would have to go away someday.
But Buddy never had news before, so it was sweet to have the
tables turned and be listeners for a change.
That Saturday, we were late. Javier was caught sneaking out
through the open garage by Papa Borrego. He was stuck in the
house until the Borrego family’s youngest, little Juanita, left the
front door ajar when she crossed the lawn to check the mailbox.
When Buddy saw us coming down the street, he jumped up,
danced a few steps forward and draped his paws over the top
rung of the gate, his sail-like ears swinging in the breeze.
“You look ready to burst, man.” Javier pranced through the
bars under Buddy’s rangy torso, so smug about his escape from
Juanita that he didn’t shy away from Bud’s big feet for once.
“I have had the most wonderful day.” Buddy sprang to the
ground, flung himself in front of us, crossed his legs and broke
into a silly grin.
“We’re all ears.” Javier shot his up to their full three-inch
“A lady came. No, let me back up and start at the beginning.”
“Was the man with the gunboats here?” Javier tucked his
hind legs under and shuttered.
“Yes, he was here. He’s always along, with a big pile of papers
stuffed under his arm, talking as fast as a pigeon in mating season.”
Buddy winked his gravy-colored eyes.
“Oh, man, his feet are huge.” Javier grimaced, eyes closed, his
front paws shaking.
“Snap out of it, Javier. Buddy, about the lady?”
“Actually, there were three ladies. The two younger ones
stuck with the talky man.”
“Javier, chill!” I sidled next to Javier and stroked his cheek
with my muzzle to calm him. “Buddy, get on about the women.”
“I’m getting to the good part. The older lady didn’t seem interested
in the house. She came outside and sat on the bench by
“So?” Javier’s voice was back in its normal range.
“Except for the pool man, people hardly ever come into my
yard. And nobody sits.” Buddy shot up onto his haunches. “Then
she motioned for me to come to her.”
“What did you do?”
“I obeyed. She patted my head. Not like Mr. Swindell. He
bonks me and flattens my topknot.” Buddy’s eyes went out of focus,
his head swaying from side to side as he recollected. “She
rubbed under my ears. Stroked my cheeks. I don’t think I’ve ever
felt anything so good.”
“Did she do it right here?” Javier was pointing to the special
place on his own ear. I could not remember the last time I’d
had my ear stroked the way Buddy described. A wave of sadness
swept over me.
“Yes, that’s it, but there’s more.” Buddy was up now, pacing.
“She patted next to her on the bench. I didn’t know what to make
of that at first. Then I had an inspiration. I jumped up and sat next
“Whoa!” Javier’s eyebrows arched, sharp as tortilla chips.
“I’m not allowed on the furniture. That was a risky move.”
“Her hair was gray, you know, like the hairs above Howie’s
eyes. Her eyes were green like new shoots of grass, and she
didn’t look through me. She looked right into my eyes. It was
“How long did she stay?” I asked.
“I can’t rightly say. I lost track of time. When the others came
for her, she had her arm around my shoulders and was scratching
my side.” Buddy blinked, a tear glistening on his lash.
“Some people are good like that. Mamacita Borrego, when
she is not so busy with the cooking and the cleaning, sits with me
sometimes. She cradles me in her apron.”
I thought of Jamie, my first handler at the golf course. Jamie
knew how a dog wants to be treated. We were a pair. Everyone
said so. I would race along the fairway faster than the breeze,
Jamie following me in the cart. I could chase geese off the fairway
all day long for that man. We were inseparable until he broke his
leg. Then Kurtz came.
I swallowed hard and tried to recall Jamie’s face. It would not
come. Only his salty scent and the firm touch of his palm on my
“Maybe she will buy the house,” I said. My voice cracked a
little, but my friends didn’t notice.
“That would be wonderful. If Mr. Swindell would let me stay.”
Buddy spun around, his silly tail bouncing.
“Speaking of the Swindell hombre,” Javier nodded to the
As the car pulled up, I sent a little prayer heavenward that
Buddy’s wish would be granted.
I sunned myself after bathing in the runoff from the sprinklers at the new subdivision. The days were getting hotter, and I had to cool off after all the exertion. I found the Hummer in the strip mall where the McDonald’s was located and gave chase. Memories of Howie’s end made my blood run hot as chipotle. I did not abandon my pursuit until the evil one gunned down the on ramp to Interstate 10. I was arranging my still damp fur when Javier tore across the intersection and slid into me on the wet concrete.
“Something has happened at Buddy’s.” He managed to spit
the words out between pants.
“What’s up?” I stood and shook the rest of my coat into place.
“The sign’s gone. You know what that means?” Javier’s
spring-loaded tail vibrated.
“It means the exchange of humans is about to happen.”
“And that means we are about to learn what is going to happen
to Buddy. Let’s get over there.” I set off at a slow trot so Javier
could keep up.
Buddy was not at the gate when we arrived. The Swindell’s
car and another vehicle filled the driveway, and a third car parked
behind them in the street. Javier slipped through the bars to go
and find our friend, and I waited, staring at the gash in the lawn
where the sign had been. The earth was disturbed like a freshly
dug grave., and a worm fought to bury itself out of sight before a
bird noticed it.
Before my pals reappeared, a man and woman, each carrying
a stack of papers, left the house and walked to the driveway. They
shook hands and headed to their respective cars. They both had
pulled away by the time Javier and Buddy reached the gate.
The muscles over Buddy’s eyes were pinched and his lip
hunched to one side.
“What are you puzzling over?” I slouched against the wall in
a patch of shade.
Javier passed through the bars to my side. “We watched the
people through the picture window. The woman kept pointing at
Buddy took up his usual position behind the gate. “Mr.
Swindell shook his head over and over.”
“Like this.” Javier did the “no” shake, jiggling his name tag.
Buddy sighed. “She is one of the women who came with my
lady, the one who sat on the bench and looked into my eyes.”
“She must have asked for you, man. That’s what it means.”
Javier sat, his little tail rotating like a propeller.
“And Mr. Swindell refused.” Buddy hung his head. “Why
would he do that? I know he doesn’t want me.”
Try as we might we could not shed any light on the scene
Buddy had witnessed. The sun moved to our side of the wall,
bathing us with warmth. My morning chase caught up with me,
I stretched out on the soft lawn and slipped into a welcome nap.
I dreamed of Howie in the happy times. We played in the park,
dodging around the statues. Sometimes, I let him win the race
to the hotdog stand at the baseball diamond, where the vender
gave us broken rolls smeared with generous squirts of catsup.
Startled awake by the sound of the garage door, I lifted my
head in time to see Mr. Swindell’s rear back into view as he
dragged something out to the driveway.
“Buddy, is that yours? It’s the biggest carrier I’ve ever seen.”
Javier was rubbing his eyes. “That would be a condominium for
a guy my size.”
Mr. Swindell returned to the garage and came out again carrying
two bowls and a leash. He placed the bowls on top of the
carrier, walked to the street, and shaded his eyes as he looked
down toward the Palm Tree Street intersection.
“I’m not scheduled for a grooming.” Buddy’s voice trembled.
Mr. Swindell waved with his free hand. A white SUV slowed
and turned into the driveway.
As a man and woman got out of the SUV, Swindell headed
“Beat it, pint size,” he said to Javier who sat frozen like a
statue in the middle of the walkway. My friend ricocheted away
from the approaching feet and cowered beneath an hibiscus
“I don’t like the look of this.” I stood my ground.
Swindell unlocked the gate, attached the leash to Buddy’s
collar, and led him toward the carrier.
Buddy turned his stricken face to me. “This is it. I’ll never see
you again. There’s no time to say the things I wanted to say.”
“Be brave, Bud. I won’t let you out of my sight. I’ll chase the
The door of the carrier closed on him and the two men lifted
it toward the rear of the SUV.
Buddy fought to remain standing as he was lifted, but he lost
his balance and fell, his face jammed against the wire mesh. The
men cursed at him to be still and strained to guide the big cage
The last glimpse I had of my friend was of that proud puff of
a tail smashed against the bars of the crate before the woman
slammed the hatch closed.
“Look, Javier, there’s the answer to the mystery.” Javier
peered out from under a red hibiscus blossom in the direction I
As we watched, the stranger counted bills into Mr. Swindell’s
palm. When he was done, Swindell handed him an envelope with
the silhouette of a dog in one corner.
Javier’s eye narrowed to slits. His voice came in a hiss. “So,
Seńor Swindell did not want to give Buddy away to someone who
would love him, he wanted to sell him to the highest bidder.”
The SUV backed down the driveway.
“Go to your house and wait for me, Javier. I’m going to follow
“May your paws become wings, amiga.”