Patricia Mey is in 10th grade at Central Cabarrus High School, and like many students, she met her best friend at school.
Patricia's friend, however, has four legs and a tail. He's a boxer mix named Buddy.
At the beginning of school last year, Central Cabarrus students, faculty and staff began to notice four puppies that kept hanging out around the school. They had apparently been abandoned nearby. When she walked outside, Patricia, who carries dog treats in her book bag, would share them with one of the strays as it followed her from class to class.
Since Patricia loves animals, and especially dogs, she was understandably upset one day last April when she could see that her canine friend was limping and obviously in distress.
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When the dog saw her, he came over and laid his head in her lap. Distraught, Patricia wasn't sure what to do with the injured dog. Eventually animal control was called.
Patricia worried about the dog the whole time he was at animal control. Unless he was adopted or an owner turned up, she knew, the dog would be euthanized in 72 hours. She knew no one would be looking for the stray.
But on the day he was to be euthanized, Patricia's 4-H leader, Donna Rogers, went to animal control to adopt the dog and gave him to Patricia to foster.
The dog needed vaccinations and surgery to repair damage done when he was hit by a car near the school. The 4-H Club paid the veterinary bills, and after getting to know the little stray, Patricia's family fell in love with him. She kept him for her own and named him Buddy.
Buddy has begun agility training; Patricia said it helps him get out all his puppy energy. He's adjusting to living in a home after months as a stray, but he still gets the urge to run when Patricia takes him outside.
Buddy's littermates did not fare so well. Two were hit by cars and died, and one was picked up by animal control; Patricia doesn't know whether it was adopted. But once word got out at school that Patricia had one of the stray dogs, her fellow students all wanted daily updates.
When Buddy was picked up by animal control, she said, everyone worried about him, and students formulated crazy plans to rescue him.
Now every day Patricia has to answer the question "What did Buddy eat today?" Buddy had a reputation at school for eating anything he could find, including school supplies. Patricia used to share her lunch at school with Buddy; he especially liked it when Patricia had couscous. That's become their special dish.
As Patricia told me, "Me and Buddy make couscous a lot now."