“Thanks and praise, for our days
‘Neath the sun, ‘Neath the stars,
‘Neath the sky
As we go, this we know,
God is nigh.”
The haunting melody of “Taps,” has been playing off and on in my mind since my good friend, Mr. Sims, passed away. He was the stalwart Captain of the garrison in our humble little fiefdom, a sympathetic listener, the brave champion of lesser souls, and indisputably the most handsome German shepherd in the history of the breed.
His magnificent achievements are legendary within the confines of our boarders. Contrary to the disposition of most four-leggeds, he loved and protected the cats around our place. Tales of Mr. Sims will most certainly be told around our dinner table for years to come. He is most famous for his ability to understand, “human speak,” and translate it into action. “The Night of the Rabid Dogs,” stands out in my memories of his bravery.
By day, I’m a hardworking Realtor. By night, after a nap, I am a writer working on my 3rd novel. I usually finish pounding at my keyboard by 2:00 AM, when Monty, Sims and I go for a walk along our quiet country road under the huge Nevada sky.
Monty Piethon is a chubby yellow Lab with a gentle soul and an outrageous sense of humor. Although he is utterly neurotic on the subject of food, being that he was the runt of a littler of eight who had to fight for his supper from birth, when well fed, his antics bring smiles to everyone he meets. On our walks, Monty and I play ball down the road while Mr. Sims fades into the night on coyote search and destroy missions. Truthfully, Sims never caught a coyote but he reveled in the chase.
One starless night, just as I’d managed a stupendously long pitch of our fluorescent green tennis ball and Monty was dashing down the road to fetch it; a pack of a dozen dogs rushed toward us from the end of the block, screeching like the hounds of hell. Monty stopped in his tracks and wagged his tail furiously, thinking no doubt, that he was about to meet new friends. Monty thinks the whole world was designed as his personal playground.
The pack approached, growling and barking. I ran up to Monty’s side, yelling at them to go home. Four of them turned on me with snapping teeth. The only weapon I had was a large flashlight. I whistled for Sims.
Within seconds, out of the inky black night, like he’d been conjured out of the air, Mr. Sims simply appeared. One hundred and seventeen pounds of black and tan growling rage stood between Monty, me, and the snarling pack. Fangs barred, hair on end, ears back, like an apparition of roaring testosterone and bulging muscle, Mr. Sims dared them all to make his day.
The pack stopped dead and then turned tail and ran. Monty, finally catching onto the fact that he and I had been in danger, began to mimic Mr. Sims by yelping away at the retreating dogs. Mr. Sims looked over at Monty with a big sigh, before turning to me with his one of his peculiar smiles. It was as if he’d said, “This boy just won’t hunt.”
I sat down, right there in the middle of that deserted road, put my arms around him and hugged him until he’d had enough. Mr. Sims wasn’t much for hugging, being the macho man that he was, he preferred having his head stroked, but once in a while he would submit to my feminine need for close contact.
The three of us turned homeward, Mr. Sims on guard at my side, Monty sniffing ahead with his usual carefree abandon. I learned later that the pack of dogs had been terrorizing the neighborhood off and on for a month, but that was our only encounter. I suppose Animal Control officers have long since rounded them up.
The question of life after death is explored in every religion. Some have decreed that Fur People, as I see my companions from the animal world, have no souls. I disagree wholeheartedly with that notion. During our time together, a multitude of emotions played across the face of Mr. Sims; joy, exuberance, worry, concern, adoration, and a very few times when he done something silly, like knock over a potted plant with his massive feet, shame.
He always knew my emotional state. He would gently place his head on my knees when I wept and stare up at me with sympathetic amber eyes; or joyfully dance around the house with me when I was happy. He was a better friend with a bigger heart than most humans I’ve known. I like to think of Mr. Sims roaming the desert along side the ghosts of Indian warriors who ride their ponies through the pre-dawn mist. Or, just maybe, Charles Sutton, the ghost whose stories I write, has adopted Mr. Sims and the two of them are having glorious adventures together.
Fare thee well my friend.
Originally published in my column, Dancing Like Nobody’s Watching, in the Pahrump Mirror
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