I'm not an animal person. At least I don't consider myself one. I have nothing against animals, I'm just not one of those people that feels like they always want one. The main reason I guess is I know I'm not a good owner. I know that pets need time and attention, room to play and roam. I hate to see big dogs in small yards, I don't want to do that. I've never had a pet that lasted more than a little while.
It's just the way I am, I don't make friends easily, be they human or animal. I have a lot of acquaintances, lots of people I recognize and talk to. There are lots of people I am a little interested to see how they do. There are very few that I truly deeply care about, people that I love. Those are the people I call friends. I've only had one pet that I considered that way, more than a pet, a friend.
I want to tell you about Sprite.
I was mowing a cemetery over eleven years ago, it was a two day job. The first day a puppy came and was hanging around my truck. He looked scared, small and skinny. I tried to get close to him, but he wouldn't let me. The closer I got, I could tell he was hungry and starving. I left my lunch out on the ground for him. He ate it while I was mowing, but never let me get close.
The next day, I brought some extra food. When I showed up I saw him in the ditch. It looked like he was hiding. He still wouldn't let me get too close, but I put out food and went to work. I decided if I could get him to come to me, I would take him home. By the end of the day he was letting me pet him and eating out of my hand. I took him home that night. I did something I had swore I would never do, I let him ride in the cab with me.
At home I showed my wife and sons, and asked the middle son what he wanted to name him. He thought just a second and said "Sprite". It was his favorite drink.
We took him to the vet, and found out he was only a few months old and that he had suffered a broken jaw. The Vet said he was malnourished but otherwise ok. He pointed out that he looked to be a mix of German Shepperd and Chow, maybe not the best pet for young kids.
He turned out to be very smart, he found every way possible to get out of the yard. He found every low spot he could dig out. He found the spots where the fence was slack and could squeeze through. I even saw him climb a chain link fence, paw over paw, and sit on the top rail like an owl then jump down and go roaming. I couldn't really get mad at him and only half hearted tried to keep him in. He liked to go look around and never really caused problems.
I kept a close eye on him around people and especially the kids. I was a little worried about him getting upset and doing something. The boys loved him and played with him. I've seen them jump on him, pull his tail, pull hair and just be rough with him. Never has he snapped at them. He just puts up with them, even other kids that come to play.
Even better than the way he put up with kids is that he protects them. I watched from inside the house as Sprite was in the yard playing with an unfamiliar black dog. It looked like a Boxer Lab mix. They were just playing in the front yard like they lived together. I heard the door open and the youngest son run out into the front yard. Before I could move to go out and warn or worry about a strange dog and my son, Sprite changed. He went from friendly happy playful dog, to hair raised ears back highly pissed off attack dog. He chased the dog off and down the road. Then he just trotted back and layed down to let son tug on his hair.
We quit trying to keep him fenced in, it wasn't what he wanted and I wanted him to be happy. He was always friendly with us, and protective of us around other people or dogs. He would sit on the front porch or did a shallow hole in the flower bed to lay on the cool ground. I even started letting him in the house for short periods, he liked it, but always wanted out to be free. I know how he felt. He became a friend.
This morning I woke to a knock on the door. Our neighbor had found Sprite in his yard. He had been hit by a car late last night. We came in about 10:30 and gave him a pat on the head on the front porch.
I walked down the road to bring Sprite home. He had been struck, and walked into the yard. I took off his collar, covered him, and carried him in my arms down the road and too our back yard. The boys and I dug a grave beside my shop. I cried like a baby while I worked.
I couldn't help but think of a scene from Lonesome Dove. While talking about a friend that had been killed, Woodrow said "We should have shot sooner." And Gus replied "I hate to think of all the things we should have done for this good man."
I also couldn't help but think of some of the people in my life. I need to make sure that those who are in that small category that I call "Friend"know how I feel. I need to make sure they know, if they don't already. I don't want to go through the regret of wishing I had told them or shown them.
Our day has been tough.
Sprite was the best dog I've ever had, and he was a good friend.
I hate to think of all the things I should have done for him.