It was one of those days, cold but not heavy jacket cold, rainy but just a slowly, dripping mist. The parson and his faithful canine companion were on a morning walk. The breeze blew. No, the wind blew peppering the back of the parson's neck with the wet cold of the morning. He pulled the hood of his jacket up over the baseball hat. Charlie Brown paused on his walk to take inventory with his nose of other canines who may have passed that way. Inventory complete, he reclaimed the area as his own and the two proceeded.
Charlie Brown stopped just as he was about to turn a corner. His tail wagged slowly. The parson stepped up beside him. There, about twenty yards away, stood another dog on a leash held by a bearded man in an aged poncho. The man was leaning against a fence eating a piece of what appeared to be beef jerky. Both Charlie Brown and the dog now strained against their leash seeking to greet each other.
“Morning,” said the man as the parson drew closer. “Fine looking dog there.”
“Thanks,” said the parson. “Same to you.”
Charlie Brown and the man's dog were now wagging their tails in unison and glad to see each other.
“What's your dog's name?” asked the man.
“Charlie Brown,” the parson said.
“Good name,” the man replied. “May I?” He held out a pack of beef jerky and pointed it toward the dogs.
“No problem,” the parson replied. “What's your dog's name?”
“I call him Guide Dog.” The man tossed a piece of jerky to both Charlie Brown and Guide Dog.
“Yep, Guide Dog. I know it's kinda a funny name. But he's my guide.”
“How's that?” the parson asked.
“It's like this,” the man replied. “I'm just an old wanderer, as you can see. I once had this old preacher tell me I needed some direction in my life. Well, the next morning after he'd said that I woke up beside the embers of my fire from the night before and there said this old dog. So, I decided to let him give me direction. So, I let him guide me along the way. That's how he got his name. He guides me.”
“You just go where the dog goes.”
“Well, pretty much. I mean, I don't let him go places where he shouldn't go, but other than that if he wants to take a left at the intersection we take a left.” He pulled the jerky out of the pouch on his belt again, extracted a piece for himself and held the packet out to the parson. “Want some?”
“No, thanks,” the parson said. “How long have you had Guide Dog?”
“We've been road buddies for about three years now.”
Guide Dog had made his way to the parson's side. He knelt down and began to pet him. Charlie Brown came to stand between the parson and the visiting canine, allowing the parson to continue petting but making sure Guide Dog understood who belonged to whom.
The man spoke, “You're the parson, aren't you?”
The parson stood, puzzled. “Yes, that's what folks call me. How'd you know?”
“Well, I asked the clerk at that store over there,” he pointed over his shoulder, “where I could find a motel that would welcome Guide Dog. He said he didn't know but you would. He told me you'd be walking Charlie Brown down this way. So me and Guide Dog came looking for you.”
The parson asked, “What's your name?”
“Henry,” said the man stretching his hand out to shake.
“You're needing a place to stay?”
“I am,” said the man. “Oh, wait a minute. I'm sorry. We're not asking for a handout. I'm sorry. No, I just need to know if there's a hotel that won't mind if Guide Dog stays in the room. We need to get in out of this rain, My iPhone says it's going to rain for two more days. And, truth is, I need a good hot shower myself.”
“The La Quinta will let the dog stay,” said the parson. “Are you sure there's no way I can assist you.”
“Parson,” the man said, “look, I've got plenty of money. I've got some investments and they should keep me and Guide Dog well fed and healthy for as long as we want. Look, Parson, we just are outdoor creatures. We like wandering this way. But every once in a while we take a break and act like civilized folks.”
The parson told him where the La Quinta was located.
“How about a meal later?” the parson asked.
“Sounds like a plan,” said Henry, “but only if it's my treat.”
The parson and Henry agreed on lunch the following day. As they walked away, the parson said to Charlie Brown, “There's a story there, Charlie Brown.”
A visitor came today. Absorbed in preparation for Sunday, I don't know how long the was there before I noticed him. Maybe it was a sudden movement, whatever it was, I turned from the desk, looked out the window, and there he was.
Outside the window of my little study, there are a couple of ceramic plates secured on the top of posts along with a couple more with feeders. My visitor was studying them intently. I think he saw me and froze before hopping onto the feeder to feast upon the seed.
It was a bluebird. (Not the one in the picture. I didn't want to risk moving for the camera lest he fly away.) He kept cocking his head from side to side, from me to the seed, from the seed to me.
Back halfway through the last century bluebirds were everywhere. You see them now, here and there. It's not unusual to see one, but back then it was unusual not to see one if you walked a hundred yards outside.
My grandfather and I built birdhouses for them, drilling the entrance holes the precise diameter for bluebirds. Springtime brought the nesting, then the eggs, then the babies.
And then there were less and less of them. By the time I was in college one hardly ever saw a bluebird. The said it was the DDT, that synthetic pesticide so prevalent in those days. The bluebird was becoming extinct.
They're coming back. The bluebirds are coming back.
I watched him a long while. He finally hopped into the seed container. He had a feast. Then he hopped up onto the ceramic container with holding the water. He drank, and then he showered. And then he flew away. But he knows where the seed bowl is not. He'll be back, I bet.
I guess it's a sign of my old age, but there are a lot of things from the heyday of the bluebird I wish would make a comeback.
The parson and his faithful canine companion, Charlie Brown, headed to the place of their morning walk. It was the nearby QuikTrip, American's finest convenience store and, in the case of this particular one, truck stop. Shortly after the parson found Charlie Brown lying beside the highway almost starved to death a short distance from the QuikTrip he began walking him there in the event his owner might come by.
Now, with the passing years, they both knew the previous owner would never come, but the walks were now habit. Besides, the parson is addicted to the QuikTrip Cappuccino.
On this day, a block before turning into the QuikTrip, the parson slammed on the brakes. Charlie Brown slid off the seat into the floor. He looked at the parson with a look similar to a tightwad church member responding to a request to minister to the destitute. The parson had braked for an obviously frightened dog who'd darted across the highway. The dog stood for a moment shaking in the median and then darted into the brush.
The parson and Charlie Brown followed their normal path around the outskirts of the large facility. The walk this morning was brisk. Charlie Brown was feeling playful. They'd almost completed the circuit when once again the parson saw the dog. This time Charlie Brown did, too. The hair on his back went up. He stared at the obviously confused and frightened animal. He didn't growl. Gradually, his fur when down and he continued to make his claim upon the property.
At the end of the trek, the dog was again seen. This time two employees of the QuikTrip were calling the dog. “Here, Puppy. Come on, Puppy. We won't hurt you.” The puppy did not believe them. He stood staring at them, shaking as he did.
The parson walked up beside them. “Sit, Charlie Brown,” he said. Charlie Brown sat.
“Come on, Puppy, come on,” they continued with snapping fingers.
“Maybe we could get a hot dog for him and he'd come,” said one.
The parson looked at Charlie Brown studying the dog. He realized the dog was also studying Charlie Brown. The parson knelt down and unhooked Charlie Brown's leash.
Charlie Brown walked over to the frightened dog. They checked each other out. Suddenly, Charlie Brown lunged in a forward motion down toward the ground bringing both his front legs on the ground. He tail beat a steady rhythm on the ground. And then it happened. The other dog lunged back. They both bolted off in a scampering play, chasing and lunging, sniffing and marking. After a few moments the parson whistled, “Come, Charlie Brown.”
Charlie Brown came, and with him came a happy puppy.
There was a phone number on the collar. The puppy's home was called. He was twenty-five miles from home. Charlie Brown walked with the puppy to the QuikTrip employee's car. The puppy was lifted into the vehicle. Charlie Brown watched the puppy and the puppy watched Charlie Brown as he left, headed back to his home.
Charlie Brown a few moments later jumped back into the parson's car, one Rescue having rescued.
The parson had made a miscalculation. He'd assumed, when he looked out the window upon waking, that the drizzle of rain would be accompanied by warmer temperatures. He was only partially right. The wind that brought the wetness delivered a chill that cut to the bone.
The chill did not seem to faze Charlie Brown, the parson's faithful canine companion. He jumped from the car in his usual excited way to make his daily pilgrimage around the outskirts of the Quik Trip, America's foremost convenience store and truck stop. The parson shivered in the unexpected chill, immediately wishing he'd brough a more substantial jacket.
Charlie Brown, however, had more pressing problems. It soon became obvious other canines had trespassed upon his daily trek. This resulted in his having to stop at every other bush to restake his claim to the territory. The exercise added to the normal time of walking the Quik Trip perimeter. The parson shivered all the more.
Two-thirds around the trek, the parson saw a familiar sight. In just a moment Charlie Brown signaled his recognition by his frantically wagging tail. The parson reached down and released Charlie Brown from his leash. Fifty yards ahead a trucker reached down and unhooked the Chocolate Lab from her's. The two bounded toward each other and just before they collided both turned northward into the open field. There they scampered and froliced.
The parson greeted the Lab's owner, Jake, a trucker from Wisconsin. Jake, the parson, Charlie Brown, and Jake's lab Sam (short for Samantha) had occasionally bumped into each other during the parson's trek around the Quik Trip. Jake was not the typical long haul trucker. He wore blue jeans and a dress shirt that were dry cleaner pressed. His cowboy boots were hand polished to a reflective shine. His rig was spotless. Jake drove routes between Milwaukee and Orlando and Milwaukee and Houston. Since his and the parson's schedules were fairly regular the two occasionally met here, which gave Sam and Charlie Brown an excuse to romp in the field and forest behind the facility.
As Jake and the parson stood watching their dogs the rain suddenly stopped and there was a break in the clouds through which the sun broke forth. The chill disappeared.
“I heard about Ms. Parson, Parson,” said Jake. “I'm really sorry for your loss. You know, that stain glass garden bench she made for us is still the focal point of the wife's garden.”
“I'd forgotten all about that, Jake,” said the parson. “I remember we were worried about you getting it there without scratching it up.”
“Well I made it. I'll think of her every time I walk by or sit on that bench. She was special.”
“She was, Jake, she was.”
Jake and the parson shared memories for a few minutes. The parson asked about his load and his trip. Jake talked about a mechanical problem he'd experienced near Nashville and how it seemed major but turned out to be a small thing. They talked about the recent snow and the differing reactions to it in Wisconsin and Georgia. The conversation paused for a long moment. Then Jake spoke again.
“I probably won't see you again, Parson. This is the last trip.”
“Seriously?” asked the parson.
“Yeah. I've been thinking about things. I need to spend more time with my family. And I can't do that hauling these loads. So I got a job with a large trucking company as an operations manager. Looks like I'm going to be an eight to five fellow from now on. I guess Sam and I will miss the road, but I don't think we'll miss the hassel.”
“I'll miss seeing you, Jake,” said the parson. “And Charlie Brown will miss Sam.”
Both men looked out over the field where Sam was crouched down in anticipation of bolting away with Charlie Brown chasing her.
“There's more, Parson.”
“What's that, Jake?”
“I'm entering the Course of Study to become a Lay Pastor. The district superintendent says he thinks he has a place where I can serve once I complete the study.”
“That's wonderful, Jake. That's wonderful.”
The parson and Jake talked a few minutes longer about the joys and shortcomings of serving in the church. Charlie Brown and Sam continued discussing the joys of running off the leash.
Then Jake said, “Will you pray for me, Parson?”
And the parson prayed. Suddenly the truck parking area of the Quik Trip became a Tabernacle.
It was only a few moments after the “Amen” that the parson whistled for Charlie Brown and Jake for Sam. And only a few moments after that the two bid farewell to each other, two circuit riders headed to their appointed rounds.
The parson sat in his office pondering a heavy question of ethics. He possessed knowledge that, one the one hand, should be disseminated to various members of his church. But, the dissemination of that knowledge could color the attitudes of those members toward another, or could in the case of a few could engender hostile feelings. The parson was stymied.
He sat back on the sofa and rested his head on the back. The stained glass window across from him glowed from the security light on the utility pole beside the parking lot. Charlie Brown, his faithful canine companion, was curled in a ball beside the parson's now empty rocking chair, seemingly torn between watching for the parson's signal it was time to depart and drifting into slumber. The parson heard the distant voices of the people in the kitchen cleaning up from the Family Night Supper. Those people were part of the parson's ethical question.
It had begun when Florence, one of the sometimes homeless women who came to the soup suppers, decided she was part of the congregation. When word of the Family Night Supper rolled around, Florence made a decision to participate. Helen brought her fought-over squash casserole; Vivian brought her usual five bean salad; Alice plopped her secret recipe for an avocado dish with her usual fanfare of “Oh, I was so rushed today I just whipped something together.”
The table was full of dazzling dishes, delightful desserts, pitchers of tea and urns of coffee when Florence entered. She greeted the familiar faces from the soup suppers and bowed her head in a shy way when passing others she did not know. On the end of the table she placed her dish, whispering to the parson as she did so.
“Oh, Florence, that looks delicious,” exclaimed Wanda Carter in an effort to make her feel at home. “Let's put it up here with the other meats.” She moved Florence's offering to the proper place and then graciously introduced her to some other people.
The parson prayed the blessing and everyone formed a line to heap their plates full of the gastronomic gifts. Maybe it was a sign of the character of the church members, maybe it really did look delicious as Wanda had said; whichever it was, Florence's platter was emptied before half the people had an opportunity to select a piece.
The evening went well. Even those who'd not met Florence at the Monday Soup Suppers seemed pleased that one of “those homeless people” was taking part in the evening. And Florence endeared herself, infecting the people with her belly laugh at the appropriate times during the program. The evening was a smash. Florence walked out to her broken down Ford Ranger with her empty platter under her arm in the company of several members as though she was a charter member of the church.
It was shortly after her departure the parson bumped up against the ethical dilemma that drove him to his office to ponder his role as the moral leader of the church. As the parson walked through the kitchen where about five women and two men were cleaning up the conversation centered around Florence.
“I think it's wonderful Florence felt at home here,” said one.
“I do, too. And I must admit that dish she brought was delicious,” replied another.
“It was,” said one of the men. “I tell you from the texture of the meat I think that chicken was an open range hen.”
“Ah, now that you mention it,” said the woman at the sink, “that must account for the difference. I loved the flavor, but the texture was different.”
“You know, the parson said she lives in the outdoors in a tent. The woman is virtually penniless. I wonder how she manages free range chickens.”
It was at that point the parson retreated to the study to contemplate the ethics of sharing or not sharing his knowledge. And there he sat, as the members finished the kitchen police duty, unsure of what to do. He could not resolve his problem. In desperation he turned to Charlie Brown and said, “You know Charlie Brown, I'm not sure I know what a free range chicken tastes like. What do you think? Do you think I should tell them that Florence cooks up the best squirrel I've ever eaten?”
Charlie Brown, the parson’s faithful canine companion,
jumped from the car the second the parson opened the rear door. As soon as the
car had turned onto the graveled driveway, Charlie Brown had jumped up from his
reclined position on the backseat. That hyper sensitive nose told him where
they were. The door was barely closed before Charlie Brown was fifty yards away,
ears flapping, legs stretching and propelling his lean body at an impressive
speed toward the pond. Three yards from the water leaped and momentarily
appeared to be flying before the water’s displacement leaped into the air to
cascade down behind his momentum.
He turned and paddled back to the shore, leaped upward,
shook himself to send a spray all about, and then walked to a smooth grassy
spot where he immediately plopped down, rolled over on his back and began to
gyrate upon the ground to either dry or scratch his back or both. Righting
himself, he looked toward the parson, assured himself his companion was still
there, and bounded across the field toward the woods at the far side.
The parson reached into his car and retrieved his Kindle.
Heading toward a fallen tree, he settled himself down with his back against it
and began reading. Perhaps ten minutes had passed when he sensed a movement
behind him. He turned to see Charlie Brown twenty yards away, his nose in the air
testing the breeze. “Here I am,” said the parson. Charlie Brown turned and
scampered toward the other far side of the field and disappeared again into the
In about another ten minutes the parson heard a low bark. He
looked up to see Charlie Brown sitting beside the rear door of the car. The
parson powered off the Kindle and raised his aging body through the aches of
age into a standing position. Charlie Brown gave another low bark. The parson
ambled over and opened the door to the car. Charlie Brown jumped in, assumed
his usual sitting position and turned to look toward the parson.
Opening the driver’s door the parson placed old bones behind
the wheel, cranked the car, put it into gear and headed back down the graveled
driveway of the farm. Reaching the road he turned toward home. Charlie Brown
dropped onto his stomach with a grunt. The parson headed home while wishing his
own sense of contentment could be so easily met.
The parson sat with the computer in his lap daring an idea to come into his mind that would be the genesis of a story for his blog. The idea would not take the dare.
An hour later when the idea had not come, the parson spoke to Charlie Brown, his faithful canine companion. “Come on, Charlie, let’s get away from this boring place.”
Charlie Brown bounded toward the door and was sitting impatiently beside the rear passenger door before the parson was down the front steps. Together they drove to the fifty area recreational area where he sometimes allowed Charlie Brown to run to his heart’s content.
Charlie Brown was sitting expectantly as the car pulled into the lot. When the door opened he bounced out, ran around in three circles and then headed at a trot down the hill. The parson sat himself on a picnic bench and watched Charlie frolic. In a few moments, the parson rose and began his own exercise, walking at a good pace along the paved path that circled the facility.
Two-thirds around the circuit, the parson greeted a couple sitting on bench. Then nodded. Facial expressions shouted this was not a romantic outing for the two; anger punctuated each countenance. The parson walked on. Rounding a curve that was prelude to the path dipping into a depression, Charlie Brown came romping up, tail wagging, tongue hanging, ears flopping. He paused to sniff the parson’s hand and then in a quick movement turned toward the pond at the bottom of the hill where the geese swam.
A movement on top of the hill caught his eye. The sound of laughter captured his attention. She must have been around eight. “Higher,” she commanded, and the soldier with the beret pushed her hard. She squealed; he laughed. The parson watched intently. The moments were precious; the parson knew deployment was in two days.
Charlie Brown had reached the bottom of the hill and now flung himself into the air to belly flop into the pond. The geese, accustomed to Charlie’s antics, showed no panic. Soon the geese and Charlie were paddling away, side be side. The parson paused in his walk to remember if Charlie’s seat cover was in place in the car. His memory assured him he’d have nothing to justify to Ms. Parson.
Cresting the hill, the parson saw Henry and Helen, “H & H” as they were referred to, walking on a path on the other side of the football field. They were holding hands as they had been for the fifty-five years of their marriage. The parson marveled at their love, their energy that took them to a dance every other Saturday night, and their deadly skill at poker.
Charlie Brown came running to the parson’s side, having no doubt panicked when the parson had gone from his sight. Together the two walked around the soccer field and back to the car. Charlie Brown graciously shook as much wet from his fur as possible before jumping in. The parson slid behind the steering wheel wondering which story he would write.
The parson was at the church to check on phone messages and the mail. That was the sole purpose of the visit. No work was planned. No acts of ministry were on the agenda. It was a necessity visit.
The phone was checked, requiring six deletes and one phone number and name written on a card and placed in his pocket. Now the only challenge would be to remember where he put the note before the shirt was placed in the wash. The mail was scanned. There were two invitations to enroll the youth of his church in the Jumping For Jesus While Preparing For the End Time Celebration for Spirit-Filled Teens convocation at a recreational resort. Two announcements of community events and one notification that the retired clergy were having a gathering in June that would be a delight. The parson filed all the mail in the same basket.
Mission accomplished, the parson headed headed through the fellowship hall to exit the church via the back door. He was almost at the door when the voice echoed about the room.
“Parson, I’m glad I caught you. I saw your car and came in to look for you.”
The parson turned to greet Mildred Hosteller, one of the folks who joined the church right after Francis Asbury purchased his third horse.
“Hello, Mildred, how are you?”
“I”d like to say I’m fine, but I’m not.” Mildred made an exaggerated sniff of the air. “Can you smell that?”
The parson made an equally exaggerated sniff. Her comment was a tipoff of what was to follow.
“Let’s see,” said the parson. He sniffed again, “I can detect a faint odor of Pine-Sol along with just tinge of Monday’s Soup Supper.” The parson sniffed again. “And I can ... I’m not sure what that is.” He leaned toward Mildred and sniffed again. “That’s a lovely perfume, Mildred.”
“Oh, aren’t you cute, Parson, just real cute. You know exactly what I smell.”
“What do you smell Mildred?”
“I smell animals. Animals were in this church, Parson. Saturday there were animals in this church. I saw them. I was driving by a couple of times and every time I did there were people taking animals in and out of the church.”
“You’re right, Mildred. There were animals coming in and out of the church all day Saturday. In fact, there were 167 animals that came in and out of the church.”
“We don’t allow animals in the church.”
“We don’t? Who’s “we”?”
Mildred huffed a bit. “You know who “we” is. The church. We don’t let animals in the church. Why were there animals in the church?”
“Mildred,” said the parson, “if you came to church a little more often you’d know why there were animals in the church last Saturday. We hosted a clinic where kids whose family cannot afford it to have shots and a vet exam for their pets. The vets examined and inoculated 167 animals. It was wonderful.”
“We don’t allow animals in the church, Parson.”
“Do you have a copy of that written policy, Mildred?”
“No, I don’t.”
“Then we do allow animals in the church.”
“Well, I’m not coming to church when there are animals here.”
“Yes, okay. Are you leaving now or do you want to lock the door when you’re ready to?”
“I’m leaving now.”
Mildred walked out the door and headed toward her car. The parson whistled and his faithful canine companion bounded across the yard, past Mildred’s car and leaped through the open rear door and onto the back seat. The parson waved good-by to Mildred.
I’ve not the faintest idea his breed. Obviously there was
some setter in him and the pigmentation of his skin hinted at Dalmatian. The
white body was decorated with black splotches. One day I went into the garage
and he was lying there on some old rags, next to the bed of my faithful beagle,
looking at me with yearning in his eyes. His tail drummed a steady beat upon
the concrete floor.
He was skinny, not thin, skinny, very skinny. His ribs could be counted. The
dry food I poured in the bowl in front of him was sucked up like a vacuum.
Finished, he licked my hand, lapped water from the pail and fell instantly
That afternoon I walked to the mailbox. As usual my beagle came through the dog
door in the garage. He accompanied me, walking on my right. Before we were half
way down the drive the visitor joined us, contentedly walking on my left. The
mail retrieved, I headed back to the house, my regal beagle, Chesapeake, on my
right. The other dog was on my left.
Evening came. Another trip to the garage was greeted by the beat of the dog’s
tale against the concrete. I poured the food into the bowl. The visitor stood
patiently aside as Chesapeake ate his supper. When he’d finished, those
pleading eyes looked to me. I poured the food again and watched it disappear in
“Did you know there’s a stray dog in the garage?” my wife asked before we went
Knowing she wouldn’t be happy at the prospect of my having another pet
(Counting Chesapeake and the three cats the stray made five). “Yes, I know,” I
said, “but don’t name him. If you do he’ll want to stay here.”
So, we never named him. For a little over a year he answered to “No-Name.” And
No-Name accompanied me whenever I walked out the door. Whenever I left, he’d
sit with Chesapeake on the hill waiting my return. Catching a glimpse of my car
coming up the road, he’d start dancing all about the yard. Usually, he’d run
into the woods adjacent to our property to get a stick to give me.
Chesapeake sits contentedly next to me on the sofa tonight. He’s a mostly
inside dog now. We both miss No-Name. He’s buried on top of the hill where he
used to sit and wait. There’s a marker there that reads: “Here lies a good dog
who answered to No-Name.”
No-Name went missing one afternoon. He probably had scampered into the woods
behind the house on the scent of a raccoon or deer. That night his tail didn’t
thump when I came to the garage. He wasn’t there the next morning, either.
After attending pastoral duties that day, Chesapeake and I went in search of
him. We looked for hours. I’d almost given up when I saw a patch of white
through some brush at the edge of a field. I headed that way. I found No-Name.
He had been shot. The bullet entered his right chest and exited the other side.
And he lay atop a pile of other shot dogs. Nine of the dogs were still
recognizable. Some I knew from the neighborhood. Others had deteriorated to
such an extent they were mostly skeletons.
I called the Animal Shelter and the Sheriff’s Office. I led them back through
the woods to the pile of bodies. I expressed my fear of what someone shooting
pets like this would eventually do. “Ah, he was probably running a deer and a
hunter shot him,” said the deputy. “It’s legal to shoot a dog if it’s running a
“Are you suggesting that this many dogs (I pointed to the shot canines.) just
happened to be shot by the same hunter on this many different days and they
were all running deer?”
I was fairly well ignored. They left. I picked up No-Name and brought him home.
Chesapeake and the cats watched me bury him. The senior cat, eighteen years old
and with whom he so often played tag, lay on his grave for two days.
It would be difficult for you to fathom the anger that boils in me over this.
It is difficult for me to recognize the un-Christian rage toward the “hunter”
who apparently shoots whatever moves and then drags the bodies to a pile. It is
hard to reconcile my faith with my feelings.
But it is easy to remember No-Name, his joy at seeing me, his gifts of so many
sticks, his never letting me walk alone. And it is good to remember that when I
last saw him alive his ribs were no longer showing and his tail was thumping to
the beat of a hymn of thanksgiving.
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