It was a beautiful autumn day. The sky was clear, the air was crisp and the leaves were yellow, brown and orange. The grass at the cemetery was still bright green. The casket was a deep wood tone. The old man in the casket would have appreciated the beautiful box he was lying in. Hundreds of people had come to pay their respects to the old man that was about to be lowered into the ground. Inside the casket with the man were baseballs, trophies, newspaper clippings, photos, dog collars and ribbons from a dog show. But none of these people were looking at the casket. They were all looking at the two large shepherd dogs that were sitting with the man’s family. They were awesome looking dogs, but you could see the sadness in their eyes. They would go from sitting to lying down and their eyes were always on the casket. Every once and a while a family member would pat them on their heads or scratch them behind their ears. But they didn’t look up; they just looked at the casket.
People around the gravesite talked about seeing the old man walking his dogs. They knew how much he cared about those dogs and how much the dogs cared about the old man. The people remembered how the old man always talked about his family, children and the dogs. He was very proud of his family and very proud of his dogs. The dogs were young, two years old and four years old. The man’s children were full grown and young adults. But the old man was too young to die. All the people were looking at those two dogs. Some people knew the man when he was a young athlete. Some of the people were here because the old man had helped them one way or another. And some of the people were there because they had become friends with the old man through the dogs.
The old man was well respected throughout the area. He
held a very important position within the community. But the last
few years the old man lived for his family and his dogs. At the cemetery
there were quite a few children. People knew the old man helped many
of these children with their problems. Some problems were small and
others were very serious. But most of the children were there because
they remembered the old man bringing the dogs to their school. They
knew the dogs when they were puppies and watched them grow into the
large animals they were today. The old man would always walk the
dogs around the community. The children would come up to him and
ask “is that the little puppy you brought to our class”?
Then they would say they couldn’t believe how big the dogs
had gotten. Some of the children even thought the dogs were wolves.
But the old man assured them they were not wolves and that they were
very friendly. Even the children who were afraid of dogs at first
came to like dogs because of the old man and his shepherds. The people
and the children at the cemetery knew why they were there but the
two dogs didn’t know what was going on. They just knew that
their family had brought them here and that they hadn’t seen
their man in a few days. They also knew that the man was in that
wooden box and they wondered why he wasn’t getting out of it.
When all the people had left the cemetery the family took the dogs
off leash and both dogs went to the grave and lied down. One of the
man’s daughters said to her mother “look the dogs are
thinking about Dad, and I know he is thinking about them”.
The daughter was right the dogs were thinking about the old man. The older but slightly smaller shepherd was remembering when the man and his family took him home. He was seven and one half weeks old; he weighed twenty pounds and was a big ball of fur. He looked bigger then he was because he was so fluffy. It was a long ride in the car but the man stopped a lot and gave the pup tons of treats. There was a big yard in his new home and he could go any where in the yard he wanted too. He went many places with his new family and really enjoyed being with them. As a pup he was clumsy and the family and old man would laugh at him sometimes. But the pup knew that he was loved. As he grew he got quite big but was still allowed to lie on the sofa and get into bed with his human mom when the old man got up.
The older shepherd didn’t like it much when he was alone in the house even though it was only for a short time. He figured that was why the man brought another puppy home. At first the older shepherd didn’t care for the pup. The pup got all the attention. But the old man always made sure he spent time with him. When the new pup was small, the man would take the older dog for long walks alone. The man knew the puppy couldn’t walk to far or long. The older dog really enjoyed the alone time with the man. After a while he and the pup became good friends. Now they didn’t like to be separated. They are always together. The old man would walk them together now. The dogs would be on long leads but they would never stray far from the man. People would always stop and talk to the man and pet the dogs.
When they got home the man would give them
each a bone to chew on. They would chew their own bone for a while
and then they would switch. They had a good home and the older shepherd
wondered why the man wasn’t there anymore. The older shepherd
was also wondering what the younger shepherd was thinking about.
The younger shepherd was thinking about when the man brought him home too. It wasn’t a real long ride and when they got home there was a big dog in the house already. The new puppy liked the big dog and wanted to play all the time. He would bite the big dog’s ears and legs and try to get him to play. The big dog didn’t want to play sometimes and then the man would put the puppy in his crate. The pup would whine for a short time and then settle down.
The younger dog also remembered going places with the family and
taking walks with the old man. He remembered going into a big building
with the man. Inside the building were lots of children. They would
come running up to them and make a big fuss. He liked all the attention.
As the pup got bigger he and the older shepherd became buddies.
The younger dog looked at his buddy and wondered why the old man
was gone. As the two dogs looked at each other they were wondering
what the old man might be doing now.
The old man was thinking also. He was thinking about his family and his two shepherds. He had a strange feeling; he knew where he was but couldn’t understand how he heard his daughter when she said the dogs were thinking about him. He was wondering what was going on. All of a sudden he knew. Then he thought “why me, why me”. Why after thirty years when the doctors first cut the sickness out of him, why had it come back. And why didn’t he let them cut it out of him again and get the treatments the doctors advised him to. But he knew the answer to that. He had seen too many relatives and friends just waste away from the effects of those treatments. He didn’t want to go out that way. He wanted his last days to be as productive as possible. He wanted to do things and go places with his family. He wanted to walk and play with his dogs. He wanted to continue his active life. Attend his children’s sporting events, go to dog shows and see his friends. And he didn’t want anyone feeling sorry for him when he did these things. That was why only three people even knew he had this sickness in him. Even now he stood by that decision. He felt he was an honest man but had to bend the truth a little when it came to his health. He thought he was being proud but he was really being thick headed. But that was okay, he had lived his whole life being thick headed and stubborn. But now he could feel his sensitive side, now he was scared, scared of the unknown.
What was happening to him? What would happen to his family, and what would happen to his shepherds? He kind of knew that his family would be alright. But he wondered what would be different because he wasn’t there. He also knew the two shepherds would be loved and well taken care of but also wondered what would be different because he wasn’t around. The two shepherds were great family companions and loved all the members in the family but they really bonded with the old man. He wondered who they would bond with now. Would they bond with his wife or one of the kids? Would each shepherd bond with a different person? Then it happened again. He heard his wife say “let’s go”. The two shepherds got up, joined their family and walked away.
When the old dogman woke up he thought about the dream he had. He hugged and kissed his family. He walked and played with his shepherds. And he silently thanked a wonderful friend who convinced him to see another doctor who cut out the sickness and told the old man that he wouldn’t need any treatments. Now he could plan on adding a third shepherd to his family someday.
Stories by Frank Rescigno. All
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