Sleeping in the back of my truck, next to my spare tire and the camping gear piled upon it here up high in the Colorado Rockies with the Milky Way in full view out my windows, a random thought whirled into my tired mind; my companion, my old Airedale Percy.
Funny how in life, we come into people and animals and, in those precious and rare times, a true bond forms immediately. And this was the case with my companion, a true loyal friend who never betrayed me, who never judged, who always greeted me after school hoping that I’d take him for long, long walks through the still-battle scarred streets of Warsaw so many years ago.
I saw him again two years ago, though it really wasn’t him but someone else’s Airedale, the two having recently come back off trail… Perfect timing for a chance to say “hi” to these two.
“I used to have one”
“Yes…”, and my hasty exit onto the trail must have seemed odd to these two.
The heartbreak of seeing him being given to a new family back in the Spring of 1973 was still too painful to bear and it hits me every time I see an Airedale. Odd how the memories of these wonderful animals still seem so fresh decades later.
Walking home from school a few days prior, I could see that my mom had some tough news to deliver. She’d see me grab the leash in the early afternoons and wouldn’t expect me and Percy to be back until dinner. Those long walks were like a sweet therapy to the end of school days in a place I never felt I belonged anyway. Never gave it a second thought. Always preferred the reliable tranquility that came with quiet time with Percy in the Northern Virginia woods.
We’d been uprooted every couple of years and finally, it seemed, my furry friend could be a constant in a very confusing though fascinating upbringing…
“Alec, we can’t bring Percy to Turkey with us. The Turks don’t like dogs and will likely kill him if he were ever to escape”, my mother did not seem like herself as she broke the heartbreaking news.
The day that the new family came to pick him up, I remember standing by the front door numb. If I work a little, I can still see the excitement in the younger children in the back of the large station wagon and the mother with a very sad and compassionate expression as I said goodbye.
“Mom. How come come some of my friends here have dogs? I thought you said…”
And as I reflected on this a couple of days ago, listening to the soothing sounds of the rushing creek under the billions of stars so high up in the mountains, I realized it was my dad who would’ve given the tough job to my mother to deliver.
She loved him as much as I had. I know this. Dad, well, what to say there. I can still remember coming home to see him beating my dog, when I pulled him away to go for a long, long walk away from his inner turmoil.
Now, as I go deep into the mountain wilderness here in the Rocky Mountains, I sometimes feel as though my old friend is still by my side.