I dragged myself out of bed Monday, bleary eyed from a lack of sleep brought on by early morning starts for deer hunting. It was an unsuccessful weekend, but there are days left for me to hunt this year.
Wandering into the kitchen for my morning glass of OJ, I heard the familiar scratch on the door and went over to let the dog in.
He wasn’t there of course. Bear hasn’t been here for almost a week now.
I closed his eyes for the last time Wednesday night after a neighbor pulled up in our driveway to say that he thought he’d hit my dog. As I walked with him down to the road I held out hope that it wasn’t him. Another of my neighbors has a black dog too, and she’s usually the one in the road.
But it was him.
From what we’ve pieced together, he was chasing his nemesis when it happened. A dog in the neighborhood has been running his invisible fence to roam. He’s already killed a couple of our chickens, and Bear had decided that he hated him.
Every time that dog ran by, Bear would hurry him along by racing along the front of our yard. He was always very protective of our family, and in his mind our family included our chickens.
It’s really hard to get used to living in a home without a dog. We’ve lost our protector in a lot of ways. Not a single person came to our home without first being checked out by him. We always knew when a questionable person was around. He’d let us, and the neighbors know. Many suspicious characters (mostly salesmen) have pulled back out of our driveway because of his greetings.
He was ever vigilant at his self-appointed job of watchdog. He’d sit outside scanning the yard for hours, even letting snow collect on his coat in winter. He’d come in when you called him, but reluctantly. He preferred not to leave his post.
Bear was a shelter dog. Mostly black lab and part mutt, he had some major issues when we adopted him. He was terrified by tall men, especially a big guy wearing a hat. He also wouldn’t have anything to do with stairs. We assumed it was from some trauma in his past.
When we went to meet him he acted like he was going to take my head off. It put me off, but my wife must have seen some potential in him, because she talked me into it. I came to be very glad that she had.
He never completely overcame his fear of tall men, but he toned down his response to giving alert warnings without the growling and teeth baring he started with. After a few months of encouragement he would even go downstairs.
Bear became a fixture in our home, showing complete patience with our small kids as they grew into big kids. He excelled at his obedience training, even though he got a very late start. He was a loyal and loving companion and would come and console you if you were feeling down.
He was our constant companion, our guardian and our friend.
It’s not easy to lose your best friend. Sure, you might say he was just a dog. But a dog is no small thing, especially to those who loved him.
I like to think that while I’ve lost a dog, I’ve also gained a spirit protector. I know he will always be around in some way to take care of us. For that I thank him.
I don’t know if heaven exists or not, but if it does, I promise we’ll play fetch again buddy. And if they don’t let dogs in, I don’t want to go.