Back then we were busy being a regular family. I had a good job, Sue was settled in teaching and the three boys were growing as fast as hamburgers, hotdogs, scrambled eggs and cereal could make them.
We talked about getting a dog. Five of us were voting. Everyone had their own favorite. Nobody was going to win.
Then one day, at the hunting camp, a man had a dog he didn’t want. He brought it to the camp to get rid of it. Yes, really get rid of it.
I brought the dog home with me that afternoon. Beautiful black lab, about four months old. I forget what we named him. It didn’t matter. The night we got him, he ran to the street just as a car came by.
A month later I was telling this story to Alton. Alton was a big hunter. He had a couple of dogs. He asked me about a hundred questions about the dog that died and what kind of dog we wanted.
Then he opened his back door.
“Would you like a hunting dog that can’t hunt?” he asked and then he whistled.
Bo came bouncing into the house. He limped. He had three legs. Alton said “He lost a leg when a mean man up in the Delta shot him for spite.” Alton didn’t cuss.
I couldn’t have been so nice.
“The vet wanted to put him down. I couldn’t do that. He’s a good dog, but I can’t hunt with him. He needs a family now. He needs someone to take care of him.”
Bo stayed inside with us that night.
Bo knew his hunting days were over. He’d come up and lean against my knee when he needed some petting. He needed a lot of petting. The boys used him as a pillow when they were watching television.
Bo never said a word. But, he spoke volumes.
He would sit in the kitchen, waiting for Sue to hand him a scrap or two. He loved Milk Bone dog biscuits.
In the winter, Bo guarded the fireplace all through the night, waiting for the fire to burn down. In the spring and summer he found fresh clover or shade under a Camellia bush next to the house. He’d lay there, waiting for the boys to come home from school.
Together, they played pitch and retrieve. I think Bo loved to bring back baseballs more than anything else in the world. After all, he was a retriever. He knew his job.
One day, I was across town. Busy. At work. Sue called. She was crying. She just said “It’s Bo. Come home. We need you.”
Bo was with us for a good three years.
I do not think he ever growled or barked a single time in anger. I know he smiled a lot.
Finding a place to bury him, then opening that grave was a hard thing to do, especially when three little boys were standing there watching.
We all hurt that day.
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