As time passes, I often remember you and me and all the fun we had when we were kids. I can’t prove it, but I think you were about two years old when I found you. I was a cocky eight-year-old then. From the way you acted and looked, I decided you had been a stray for most of your young life. As I look back, I think you were as close to being wild as one could get. Maybe I was naive then, but after we met and I fed you some bologna and milk, I knew you would always be around me. But, that doesn’t matter anymore; we were lucky to have met. We made each other happy and we knew it. We thought we’d live forever. We’d wrestle around in the big field behind our house. You followed me everywhere, even into Schutz’s Grocery Store and Camp’s Drug Store. They smiled and never said a word. Every time I went swimming at the city pool, you laid by the rear tire of my bicycle and slept or watched the people go by until I came back. God blessed us; especially you, because we lived in a small town, which meant you had plenty of woods, fields and county roads to explore and roam. Best of all, you always came and went as you pleased, to satisfy your free spirit. When I was working or away at college, mom, dad and my brothers always let you out, and back in, no matter the hour of the day or the weather. Each time I walked into the house, the first thing I did was find you. I’d say your name, you’d wiggle your tale, I’d pet you and go on about my business. A few minutes later you’d find me and plop down next to me. In those days, dogs didn’t have to be kept on a leash or in a backyard, thank goodness. You liked it that way. You wore a harness to carry your dog tags, but a leash never touched your body. Every time I’d go outside and holler your name, once or twice, a few minutes later you’d be on the back porch scratching to come in. One more thing, you never did anything to embarrass our family, no one in our neighborhood ever complained about you to mom and dad or me.
Yeah, I often think about you and me and all the fun we had a long time ago. We thought we’d live forever.
Rusty was about the size of a small Labrador retriever with long wavy reddish-brown hair. We knew we were a perfect match and everyone in our family, and the whole town too, knew it. We grew up together and respected each other.
I was 21, a snowy February in 1964, when Rusty died. Our next door neighbor told me he saw Rusty stumble to the ground in a neighbor’s side lot, across the road from his house and that Rusty’s death was quick and painless. God gave Rusty fifteen years of freedom and love. That same morning, by mom’s backyard flower garden, I buried Rusty, but not Rusty’s spirit or his love.
I thank God for giving Rusty and me this time together.
Each time I hear SPIRIT IN THE SKY I remember… We thought we’d live forever, and in a special way we will.