Farewell, my old faithful friend. Our adventure together in this life is finally done. And oh, what a time we had. What a journey. From Idaho to Maine, from mountain summits to ocean shores, from gourmet dog food to whatever we could make out of Bisquick. In both dark times and bright you were my steadfast companion.
I thought it was I who had rescued you so long ago when I first saw you standing there 15 years ago in that cage — the last one on the left down that long row of barking dogs. I was 25, just a kid. You didn’t bark at me. You didn’t growl. You just looked at me — and then you wagged your tail. I knew you instantly — with your soulful eyes in which were bound all that is good, all that is gentle and all that is innocent. There was no question, you were coming home with me. I was there that day by chance; an unplanned visit. I had no idea our lives would be so bound together and for so long. You were among several dogs whose lives were to be ended within hours of that day. I couldn’t save them all, but I knew I had to save you.
Yes, I thought it was I who had rescued you. But as fate would have it, it was you who rescued me — time and time again. How many lives have we lived together? You’ve journeyed with me for more than a third of my life. From an empty church parking lot in Maine where we spent many cold nights sleeping in that tiny Civic. I was lost and lonely. Your nose would find its way through to the front seat in the middle of the night, nudging my ear. I had nothing but you and our friend Skidder, the three of us living in a car and working a hot dog stand during the day. People loved to pet you. You brought peace to everyone who touched you.
You looked to me for food and for our next path. In return, you gave me hope and confidence. Our travels took us across the country, down may roads and many wooded trails. You never left my side. We threw the leash away years ago. You defied all the rules people tell you about dogs — don’t get in their face (you loved people in your face), don’t touch their food (you would gladly share if anyone actually wanted it).
When bitterness or anger shown on my face, you offered me affection and floppy ears. When I couldn’t muster the spirit to step out of bed, you were there to need me and give me purpose. Your outstretched paw said come pet me. Your eyes on the door told me there was a world out there waiting for us. Oh, what a book we wrote together — from wandering pilgrims living out of our car to domesticated family with a house to call home. You saw me married — even walked down the aisle with that foolish bow tie we made you wear. You saw me through that marriage and through a divorce, making sure that through it all, I was never alone. And then, I had a son. And you gave me the most wonderful gift you could have given. You loved him. And through all of those many years together, your lessons of patience and understanding prepared me for being a father. Such a gift can never be repaid. It can only be cherished.
The tears I shed over you are not tears of regret. They are tears fed by the enormous well of love you’ve spent your life filling within me. I know you didn’t want to leave us. Even when your body faded your eyes remained fixed on us, your tail wagged at our approach. Your spirit is tied to this earth and will be so long as those whose lives you touched draw breath. You will be with me forever — in the quiet woods, on the sunny grass. In the playful eyes of my son.
I love you, my friend. My companion. My Indiana.