True Companion(s)

A piece written for my honey many years ago.  Found it cleaning up my computer.  🙂


Ralph Waldo Emerson writes on friendship:

“The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, nor the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when he discovers that someone else believes in him and is willing to trust him.”

My best friend? That’s a toss up. One candidate — my husband. Standing 6’4” and over 200 pounds, David is a gentle giant. I always said that in the nine years that I have lived life with him he never made me cry. Well, now to date, one might say that he has brought on two of the worst crying episodes of my entire life.

In the middle of my Christmas break, he pulls me into him and whispers, “I have some bad news.” David, always so calm, happy and full of jokes now holds me very tight, not letting me go. “There was a fire in Chester,” he pauses … only slightly … “Lewis didn’t make it.”

I try to push away from him, looking up at him strangely. “That’s not funny, David,” still attempting to move away from this terribly morose sense of humor he has suddenly developed.

He only pulls me into him again, “Lewis didn’t make it.” My sixth grader who needed the most in every way imaginable had died in a fire after returning into his tiny, dilapidated house in a vain attempt to save his grandmother. I had known this child since he was four; the town’s trouble maker. He had attached himself to me long ago, calling me at home two or three times a week. His mother no longer really around, he had made me his surrogate mother. I gave all that I could to him with all that I had. I cried. I sobbed. For days. For weeks.

My grief turned private. Life had to continue. The grief counselors had long disappeared. The students moved on. They had their tests and assignments, their reading and writing, their relationships and responsibilities. I had to move on as well. And although I feared I would never again want to love so deeply for fear of feeling such hurt again, their smiling faces and hearts that greeted me every morning never allowed me to retreat into such a protective world. I wondered briefly if I would regret that.

I got on with life. Through it all I turned to whom I loved the most, the other candidates for my best friends, the ones who greeted me at my car door every day with smiles on their faces, smiles throughout their whole bodies, just waiting for me to come home — my dogs. My two beautiful Samoyeds, Maggie and Chez, with their upturned mouths creating that classic Sammy smile, balls of happy white fluff, just dancing to see me. Much to the chagrin of David, my dogs always received the first hello from me. My response to his protests remained a constant over the years, “Well, maybe if you came running to the driveway at the distant sound of my approaching car, bouncing, whining, dancing, I just might greet you first.” David’s not quite the dog person that I am. He never accepted this as an adequate response, nor did he ever demand a change.

After one particularly busy “end of the year” kind of week, I rushed home after our field trip to New York City at 9:30 in the evening, looking forward to walking the dogs, a favorite activity that I had not done in a couple of days. As I rounded the corner I saw David sitting on the deck with my father, my mother, my sister, and my friend, Cindy. Not always the closest of families, I became slightly apprehensive, especially when David came off the deck to greet me, the dogs’ activity that he never did. Either bad news loomed or I was addicted to something!

He hugged me, pulling me in closely, tightly and whispered, “I have some bad news.”  Again? “Maggie died today.” Why does he keep doing this to me? I pulled away from him, looking for her. I find only Chez looking quiet and dismayed under the deck. The tears come as the reality of his words hit like a deadly blow. I cry. I weep.  I sob. I shake — over a dog.

A dog that pushed the behavioral limits in every moment of the day. A dog that heard after every exasperated repeated command, a huge sigh and, “You’re lucky I love you, Maggie,” as she would lick my face in happy disobedience. A dog that baffled every Invisible Fence employee as to how she could have escaped with such a high voltage battery. A dog. I missed a day of school, a very rare occurrence…for a dog. What was wrong with me? I never considered myself one of those Beverly Hills, obsessive dog lovers. I never bought bows or ribbons, special foods, expensive treats, brought them to groomers. I only loved and cared for them. Loved and cared so deeply that without the support of my husband and father would have fallen to the sidewalk, the sidewalk where Maggie would dance and shake at the mere sight of me. I was distraught. I was heartbroken. I was sorrow. All over a dog. I did not want to be this grown woman weeping for her dog’s life cut so short, missing a day of work over an obstinate mule disguised in white fur and a smile, losing sleep due to a void left by a dog who demanded love and attention and who returned in unconditionally. I felt like a fool. Until I received a gift. As if from the woman herself, Dog Heaven, by Cynthia Rylant.

She writes:

“…so sometimes an angel will walk a dog back to Earth for a little visit and quietly, invisibly, the dog will sniff about his old backyard, will investigate the cat next door, will follow the child to school, will sit on the front porch and wait for the mail. When he is satisfied that all is well, the dog will return to Heaven with the angel. It is where dogs belong, near God who made them. Angel dogs.”

Maggie was no angel, but I did love that dog. And if Cynthia Rylant understood then I was not a fool. So I thought.

In reviewing the course of my life, I realized that my dogs and my students always received the best of me, 100% of me. My stepson, whom I have raised since birth, has received a mother’s love from me, the most that I have to offer. Wilson Rawls wrote in his incredible book for dog lovers, Where the Red Fern Grows:

“Men, people have been trying to understand dogs ever since the beginning of time. One never knows what they’ll do. You can read every day where a dog saved the life of a drowning child, or lay down his life for his master. Some people call this loyalty. I don’t. I may be wrong, but I call it love—the deepest kind of love.”

God reminds us of this commandment to love one another in John 15:13.

“Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”  Maggie certainly didn’t lay down her life for me and I doubt that she ever would have, but I do know of someone who loves me as God commands it. Someone who despite his many and varied complaints about Maggie over the years forfeited his coveted morning cup of coffee to put his lips to Maggie’s muzzle, (who as a Samoyed never smelled but who had breath that could kill a small elephant), in futile and vain attempt at CPR to save her life — save her for the woman that he loves. My best friend. David. My true companion for now and for years to come. David who deserves to receive the most I can give, even more than to my dogs and to my students. David who knows that even though I will say I won’t love my students that much this year, won’t be mad when I do.

Ekatarina Gordyeva wrote in her book My Serge that you can’t wait to tell the people in your life that you love them. Don’t think that you’ll have tomorrow because you may not. And although I regret all the walks I didn’t have time for with Maggie, and all that I couldn’t do to save Lewis while he was alive, their deaths have taught me that time is short. Life is short. You can love many people and beings all at the same time. As Anne Shirley states, “Kindred spirits aren’t as rare as I once imagined.” I have learned to find and appreciate my kindred spirits along the way. However, what I have learned above all else is … Dogs may be man’s best friend, but true companions are human, and I am so thankful that I learned who mine is.




  1. Debra Siraco Said:


  2. Sdeblasio Said:

    Hey. So where’s the blog about De Bozo and GigLee Oh?

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