At the age of six, my dad found a puppy in a briar patch next to our driveway. We named her Bear. This puppy would become my pseudo-sibling and best friend during my growing up years and I believe I was blessed to have this beloved canine companion as compared to another little human being. You see, we never argued. We never fought over taking turns at anything. In fact, we agreed on most everything. Whatever I wanted to do, Bear did it with the enthusiasm that only a dog possesses. And even though Bear was a female, she and I didn’t have the usual boy-girl fights. No, it seems that ours was a mutually-balanced relationship. When I wanted to just relax and watch a movie, Bear was content to do the same. She would stretch out beside me with a look of complete contentment on her face. If I wanted to go outside and go sledding, she was eager and ready to go, many times riding the sled down the hill with me. We had a ball together those many winters.
I had a pair of bright orange boxing gloves and while I didn’t have a punching bag, I had Bear. When she would see those gloves come out, she was on her feet and ready to go at it. I remember giving her some pretty stiff upper cuts but she just came back for more. Her teeth ripped some pretty substantial holes in those gloves but not so much so that we couldn’t still have our regular bouts.
If I decided to go squirrel hunting, Bear was all for it. When she saw me come out the door with my orange hat on, hunting gear in hand, she went wild, jumping around, eager to get on the trail of whatever we were pursuing that day. She was a perfect hunting companion, unlike most female humans I know. I remember how quietly she would sit beside me in the woods, not twitching a muscle, listening intently, waiting for me to make the first move. When I would finally shoot a squirrel, she would be off like a bolt of lightning to retrieve our catch. This was her favorite activity that we shared in.
Bear was a great traveling companion, too. No matter how fast or how far I rode my bike, she was right with me. I somehow felt that she was there protecting me and watching over me in her own way.
I can only imagine how lonely my childhood might have been had I not had her constant companionship. I could talk to her freely knowing there would be no judgments coming from her or hasty opinions, till I sorted it all out.
I think God knew what He was doing when He allowed that little ball of fur to be caught in the briar patch all those many years ago. He knew a little boy needed the quiet loyalty and friendship of a good dog in his growing-up years.
Today, my wife and I have four dogs that live with us. Heidi, the boxer, is my girl and though I love her to death, there will never be a dog like Bear. You see, she was the girl that I grew up with.
So, I believe in the value of canine companions. Bear was mine. She died unexpectedly when she was twelve years old. I can’t imagine that I would have grieved any more for a human sister than I did for Bear. I’m sure that I will never love any other animal like I loved Bear.
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