My very best friend
by Mike Starling
(Fishing Creek, MD)
The day he licked cancer and came home for a month
Today I let go of my very best friend, Zak. He found me after the hurricane and insinuated himself into my life. He had been loose on the Island for 9 months and was getting underfoot at the crab factory.
Zak was a fetcher, through and through. He found me the same way he found everybody else, with a stick in his mouth that he'd drop at your feet and stare alternately at it and you, and wag his tail until you relented and threw it for him.
With an instantaneous burst of speed he'd bring it back in a flash and implore you time and time again, to never, ever stop. He was old, maybe 8 or ten, with white showing around his muzzle, but every bit a puppy, despite his scruffy, bristle brush hair from 9 months on the lam, living under houses and in vacant buildings that the hurricane left askew.
I was on my only three week vacation, and by the third week, he had stayed with me many days straight on the big porch we have facing the bay. One night before going in, I wondered "what would he do if I got down on the floor?" So I laid down on the floor next to my chair, and he got up from where he was, came over and laid down beside me, and snuggled his body into my side. I've never known unconditional love and joy and affection like I knew with Zak. In that moment, much to my wife's shock, he became our dog. She came to love him every bit as much as I.
People aren't that pure -- perfect spirits, unencumbered by the temporal awareness of anything other than here and now.
I will be in pain for a long time, but I hope there is an afterlife where we will meet again in a nice field, with a breeze and sunshine, and he'll show me how fast he is, how high he can jump in the air for the ball, and push his head into me wagging his tail and snorting through his nose, saying "I love you, Master" all over again.