My soon to be wife and I were driving from Buffalo, NY to Avoca, AR looking to get a new lease on life.
I hadn’t been out of the Army long and a string of bad luck, and troubles followed in my wake. I needed a change before I changed the path on which I was traveling.
My mom and her husband had just closed on a house, and were moving out of a place that they were renting, a single wide trailer. It wasn’t much but the landlord agreed to transfer the lease to us.
While cleaning the place preparing for our arrival so they could move, my mother had hit a Burger King for lunch and was eating it in her truck. It was then she heard a whining sound outside her drivers window and turned to find a Rottweiler puppy outside her door.
So began our journey.
He was probably a year old. Maybe 2. We don’t know for sure. My mom checked with all the neighbors but none claimed him. For his part he shied from people, and was beaten badly, obviously abused. He had a rope tied to him that was broken so escape was apparent.
Mom called us and asked if we wanted a dog, she already had 2. We were in Indianapolis at the time with miles still to go, and we accepted.
We named him Huckleberry Finn, after the abused orphan in the Mark Twain stories and novels, but it was quickly shortened to just Huck.
He became our first child, our confidant, my son.
He saw us through many trials and tribulations. 2 adults and a over 80 pound Rottweiler in a two bedroom single wide trailer was quite a crowd.
Often he would do what we called laps, running in circles through the living-room leaping from sofa to sofa and wagging his tail happily.
You never saw a stronger dog. Our porch was built on pressure treated 4×4’s. Initially while we were at work we would hook him to them. But after having to replace them 3 of them from where he snapped them in half we moved his cable to a nearby stump. This he soon pulled out of the ground. So we tried hooking him to the toungue of the trailer.
Have you ever sat on a couch, only to hear a monstrous bark, then have your entire house move as a Rottweiler whom has decided a cat was too close for his liking came to the end of his steel cable at full tilt? Its an experience.
We finally put my 1971 Ford F100 in the backyard and connected him to the rear axle. Even that often sounded like a Def Leopard number as he would yank the truck physically with a loud clang. We would run out side fearing he had broken his fool neck only to find him wagging happily at the end of his cable as if to say “Look at me Dad! See what I did?”
Our porch sat a full 13 feet in the air. As a young fog he would leap from the porch to the ground without hitting a single step in hot pursuit of some small furry and insignificant creature. If you were at the bottom of the stairs during this transition it would take your breath away and have you consider a change of pants.
We’d go to the lake fishing he and I. Him sitting in the front seat of my truck, upright. He hated the water but he liked to go riding, and for years anytime I cranked the truck he would climb in thinking we were going somewhere.
He saw me through my self control issues with booze. Was there when I forever lost my oldest daughter. He saw my wife through the days and nights when I traveled, and slept on our feet at the foot of our bed.
When Critter was born, we could not take him to the hospital obviously. So I bought my wife a stuffed Rottweiler animal whom we dubbed Huck 2.0 to be present. Its now my daughters favorite stuffed animal.
When we brought her home, he sniffed her from end to end and licked her face, and the bond was forever formed. From that point forth he was her brother and protector, and she his sister.
Our first Christmas was a family picture of all of us in our living-room, me my wife, Critter and Huck.
In the years to come she have conversations with her teachers about her brother, often forgetting to explain that he was a dog, leaving them confused, concerned and leading to more than one parent teacher conversation of inquiry.
A poor FedEx employee once tried to come to the porch while both he and she sat in the sun. A by that time nearly 90 pound Rottweiler growling from her side is a deterrent to most anyone, and when it rises to its feet with hackles a retreat becomes quickly necessary. I never feared for her safety, but I sometimes idly was concerned for others. The proverbial Beauty and The Beast.
My wife is a great collector of stuffed wild animals, and we once had to hide a black panther she owns. For no matter where we placed that cat he would search for it, find it and we would have to remove it from his presence lest he rend it limb from limb. We finally had to put it in storage, ex-filtrating it while he slept in a garbage bag full of moth balls to keep him from the scent.
The stories go on.
A friend once crashed on our futon in the living-room.
We were greeted at 3 am by a loud thump and a cry in the night, human mournfully calling my name.
My friend lay in the floor, the dog on the futon, having gradually pushed him with all four feet off the bed and in to the floor. Huck never raises his head but just looked at us and wagged his tail.
The years flow by. His chin turned white with age. Our jobs changed. We moved three times. But always he was there.
How often have I sat on our porches, cigar in one hand, his head under my other, as we watched the sun go down?
How many times had he curled himself in to what seemed a impossible position under my desk upon my feet earning one of many nick names “Pretzel Dog”?
In the years he has protected us from snakes, armadillos, rats, cats, coyotes, mail people, random visitors, and the horrid threat of possums. In our previous homes neighbors dogs quickly learned whose yard to steer clear of and whose food bowl to not poach from.
Sleeping in our home at night, outside only when he wished. He missed us while were gone and greeted us at every return, as if we had been gone years, not hours.
Today all that changed.
For the last 3 weeks he had eaten little. It was all I could do to get him to walk.
Barely he moved, and he wished not to rise from any position. I coaxed him to eat some chicken last night, and a can of soup. But that was all.
In desperation we took him to our local vet today to learn the end was near. He whom had shattered porches, moves trailers, and leaped from unbelievable heights had to be carried by me into the building. I knew, in my heart, at that point for certain, it was over.
We held him, our arms circles around his neck as he breathed his last. Our tears on his fur, his breath hot on my face.
Since 2002 he had been our friend, our child, my son: the only other male for me to relate to in a house full of women. My child’s best friend, her sibling her protector. How many nights had he lay beside her or outside her door while she played?
Each time she entered the doctors room with him he would force himself to raise his head, and his tail would wag heartily, but that was all he could muster. Her tears broke my wife and I’s heart and we added our own to the fountain.
No matter where we lived he would dig up my flower gardens to sleep in. So we buried him next to one, and planted bulbs over him after covering him first with ashes to keep others away. He has his own flower garden now, a little monument to his life.
As for us our hearts are breaking. The pain still fresh, the memories of only this morning still fresh in our heads. He started this life painful, distrustful of people. I only hope that in the end we made his lot better than it was. I know, for us anyway, its true he did.
He goes now to Piddlers Green.
My daughter has a story book, of a boy and his dog. The dog eventually passes on, but in it the boy tells the dog that he will eventually become a man after. The boy tells the dog to run free when its his time, and the dog agrees anxious to meet his master, in his own world.
I hope its true. For no such valiant and loyal friend ever deserved such freedom, than he. I only hope I can be half as good as you were.
Goodbye, old friend. See you on the other side.