Anyone who has walked a dog has heard the “who’s walking who?” joke. With John Karakian, BLET’s Grand Trunk Western General Chairman, his dog actually was walking him. Karakian and Buddy, his chocolate lab, walked three or four hours at a stretch a few times a day for more than 12 years.
“Buddy would pick the route. Once we’d step outside, he’d either go to the left or right. I’d let him take the way and there were lots of different routes. I didn’t want him to think he could outwalk me,” Karakian said. If it was hot, Buddy would lead them to a local lake and he’d sit in the water while Karakian waited on the dock. “He would start slowing down when we’d be on the way home. He’d want to stay out.”
No matter where they went throughout their Detroit neighborhood, Buddy would get attention and treats from friends and strangers alike.
“He was a fantastic dog with a great disposition. Everyone loved Buddy,” Karakian said.
In the meantime, Karakian was often on the phone doing work. Karakian, one of the longest-serving General Chairmen of a BLET General Committee of Adjustment, worked as a locomotive engineer before going full time as a General Chairman. His father was a Teamster at a lumber company in Detroit and, once when Jimmy Hoffa came to speak at the local, his father brought him along, making a huge impression.
“A lot of the union local chairmen knew Buddy. He was a Teamster,” Karakian said. “He even softened up the company sometimes. Buddy was my secret weapon in negotiations.”
Unbeknownst to Karakian until Buddy passed away in March 2019, they were both well known in the community.
“Apparently, everybody knew us. The police and fire department sent people by when they noticed we hadn’t walked past their stations for a few days. Everyone was wondering where we were,” Karakian said.
He decided to let people on their regular walking route know what happened, so he handed out a photo of Buddy along with tickets to his church’s 2019 Easter production. Dozens of people showed up so he spent the next seven months passing out more than 2,000 more notices about Buddy along with tickets to the Christmas service at Brightmoor Christian Church in Novi, Mich.
Hundreds of people showed up with their “Buddy” tickets—many said they had never been to church before but came for Buddy.
The story of Karakian and Buddy has been written about by the Christian Broadcasting Network, and Guideposts magazine featured their story in the most recent issue.
He has gotten hundreds of emails and letters of support from all walks of life, including Jim Harbaugh, coach of the Michigan Wolverines college football team; evangelist Franklin Graham; Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer; and even Joe Biden’s White House.
“It’s hard to believe how much has happened since Buddy passed away,” Karakian said. “The whole thing really helped me get closer to God. Buddy did that too,” he said. “All of the hatred and fractional issues in today’s world…that was all overcome by the story of the kindness of Jesus being reflected in a dog.”