When I was 4 years old, I met my first best friend, and his name was King.
By the time I was 10, the King and I were spending most of our time running around the woods of my youth, exploring hidden rivers and old dirt roads. He was a tough reddish brown shepherd lab mix with a lion-like mane.
He loved chasing cars and chipmunks. I remember one day he caught Freddy Eli's Ford and ended up with a giant cast on his front leg that quickly turned brown and tattered from the neighborhood dirt. Eventually, he couldn't take it anymore and the cast broke free. The break healed well enough so that he could continue to chase chipmunks, and I remember all of us kids standing around a particularly unfortunate little rodent we all thought was a goner until the chipmunk rose from the dead and bit my sister's finger in our backyard.
When King got older and could no longer make it up the stairs, my dad started to prepare me for the inevitable by telling me that a dog knows when he is going to die and usually wanders off into the woods to find a peaceful place to go to sleep.
A few weeks later, I woke up and King was gone. And after a few days of searching our favorite cave and walking through the woods calling his name, I realized he was dead. It wasn't until I was in my early 20s when my parents told me that they had brought King to the vet to be put to sleep. I am so glad I never knew the truth. It was an easier way to say goodbye.
A couple of weeks ago, we took a ride to the shelter to pick up a new family member. She is a 14-week old lab mix named Sadie, with amber eyes and a beautiful yellow coat. She was born in a barn in Tennessee, somewhere outside of Nashville. She is a curious little pup who loves to leap at the white winter moths under the full moon in our backyard. During the day, she chases the oak leaves as if they were a covey of quail bursting out of the green grass.
My wife and I don't have many more dogs left in our lives, and our boys are growing fast. As they roll around the floor with their new best friend, I try and capture the moment, hoping this friendly, innocent animal will some how help them remember these precious times for as long as they live.