The Spirit of the Season–The Buddy Gene Christmas Story

The Buddy Gene Christmas Story


Buddy Gene of the Buddy Gene Foundation

Jan Morgan-Swegle, Editor


(Jan Morgan-Swegle)


Earlier this year, I met a woman named Nancy Freyberg, who  wrote a book about taking in a dog and starting a foundation after it died.

One day, Nancy was on the highway riding behind a van.  The doors of the van opened and two men threw a dog onto the pavement thinking that if the fall didn’t kill him,  he would get hit by another vehicle and die.  Nancy rescued the barely alive coon hound with no name, just numbers on a collar.

The hound was tossed out of the van because he was too old to hunt anymore and that was his “primary” job.  Nancy and Rena, her partner, gathered this dog up from the pavement and named him “Buddy Gene” and that’s where his “real” job started.

Buddy didn’t know anything about being a pet.  Nancy said, “in the beginning, it was hard.  If you got too close to his food, he would get angry.  He never made eye contact.  He never had a blanket in his wire cage.  We had to take small steps to be able to get close to him.  We had to go back to the basics with him to get him to move forward and enjoy the gift of freedom that we gave him.”

It took a while, but eventually Buddy came to enjoy his new life.  He was a treasured pet and it suited him well.    Buddy came to prefer walks in the park instead of running through rough hunting grounds.  For the first time in his life, Buddy had a home, not just a cage.

Like many pet owners, Nancy and Rena bought Buddy toys for Christmas, but he wasn’t as interested in the toys as much as he was the human contact he came to enjoy.  He shared family holiday celebrations by just sitting quietly on a blanket that Rena crocheted for him and listening to the sounds of the voices he came to love.  As Rena explained, “our gift was changing Buddy’s life and making him feel loved.  The love he gave us in return was his gift to us.”

Nancy, Rena and Buddy Gene were together for 3 years before he died—ironically, he was hit by a car.  Needless to say, they took the loss hard.  But rather than just grieve, Nancy started doing research on animal shelters.  One of the things she found was that few were concentrating on the needs of senior pets and that older animals are the first ones to be abandoned and the last ones to be adopted.

With the support of Rena and a few friends, Nancy started the Buddy Gene Foundation.  The mission is to raise awareness of the plight of older animals and provide food, fostering and materials for those who are trying to care for animals that may be old, but still deserve comfort and dignity.    (Go to for more information.)

The Foundation was built as a celebration of life and this season there is much to celebrate.  On Thanksgiving Day, the Buddy Gene Foundation and St. Jude’s Metropolitan Church sponsored a Free Thanksgiving dinner for anyone wanting to spend the day with others.  They also  helped with the North Side’s Food Co-op Thanksgiving dinner and delivered meals to the Cornerstone Baptist Church in Leland.

The Foundation is planning a Christmas fundraiser that will feature pictures of pets with Santa Claus.  Small bags of animal treats for stocking stuffers will be on sale.  Proceeds will go to various animal related initiatives for food and supplies for their care.

While Nancy and Rena are proud of what they and their staff of volunteers have  done in such a short amount of time, Buddy’s loss is still painful.  As Nancy sat and thought of Buddy, she said, “I would give it all up for one more day with him—but look what we have accomplished because of him.”

That’s the spirit of the season.