Sunday, October 01, 2006

On the loss of my best friend . . .

News that my best friend died came from a quivering voice on a bad cell connection. I was not sure I heard it right or maybe I was sure but desperately wanted to write it all off as a mistake.

"Jim, he's gone." Those words fell on my chest like an anvil and I found it hard to breathe. It was not a good time to hear this news standing alone among thousands of people in a mall in St. Louis, most of whom looked away as they saw tears running uncontrollably down a sobbing stranger's face. But then, it is never a good time to hear these things.

As I reflect on the brief time we had known each other, the tears still come intermittently and perhaps selfishly because I know there will never be another like him.

He was always there for me, available but never demanding of my time. He appreciated the time we spent together yet never complained when I would go out on the road for days, even weeks at a time, and would not have an opportunity to speak. He never so much as suggested he wanted to do something other than what I wanted to do, never uttered a cross word to me, was never in a bad mood as far I as knew, always smiled, never criticized anyone, always seemed to know how I felt even when I didn't know. He was genuinely kind, but he had a sense about people you could count on. I remember well a couple of times he backed me up in difficult situations and I have seen others with fear in their eyes after staring too long into his.

It will be hard to find another friend with all of these qualities and even more difficult to find someone comfortable enough with his own manhood that he can say, "I love you," and he did in his own way everyday that we were together.

You may be wondering whether a person like this really exists. And the answer is no. No human is born with or raised to be so selfless, so caring or protective. Only a dog can be blessed with all of these qualities and of all the dogs I have ever known there have been many who were very special, but none who exemplified unconditional love, joy, and friendship more than my German Shepherd, Strauss.

I will miss you, boy.