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Puppy was best friend, longtime companion

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In these days of retirement, my mind often wonders back to those delightful, carefree boyhood days of growing up in the small Missouri Ozark and Current River town of Van Buren, Missouri.

There were creeks, slews and caves to wade in and explore. There were imaginary Indians and dangerous pirates lurking in the shadows as I and a friend bravely fought our way through all these created adventures.

I did not have a television or a high-tech video game to do the creating and imagining for me. The creeks, the rivers and caves were real. So were the copperheads and rattlesnakes.

There was a companion who was by my side at all times during those magical days. Her name was Lady. The story of how we met and became the best of pals is worth the telling.

My dad, a Baptist pastor, and my mom, a journalist, had long resisted my pleas to allow me to have a pet in the form of a dog.

It was on a fateful Sunday night following the evening worship that a white puppy with a brown patch around its left eye showed up in front of the church, apparently dumped out of a car on the highway just a block away.

We were instant play buddies, and Dad took immediate notice.

It was Brother Ed’s (my dad’s) routine task to escort his 90-years-young sweetheart, Aunt Cindy Baker, home in our 1950 Ford. Immediately, Dad saw the wisdom of insisting that I get in the car and go with him to deliver Aunt Cindy to her house, thus creating significant distance between me and this new, furry friend.

We arrived at Aunt Cindy’s place and dad dutifully escorted Aunt Cindy to the door. As he returned to the car, we both saw a surprising sight. A little white puppy with a brown patch around its left eye running with all its might toward the car.

This little creature was so determined to stick with her new buddy she was not going to give up so easily.

Immediately, Dad suggested we go to the local ice cream shop for an ice cream cone. What kid would refuse such an offer? Dad’s strategy: That dog would never follow us there. It was a mile away.

We got our ice cream and returned to the car. There, sitting by the car, panting and worn out, was a little white puppy with a brown patch around its left eye.

Dad caved in, and I was delighted. He told me to put her in the car and we would go home and see what Mom would say.

Mom’s response: OK, we will give her something to eat, outside, but you need to understand that she will probably be gone by morning.

The next morning my first act was to scurry to the back porch to see if she might still be there. To my heart’s delight, there on the top back step was a little white puppy with a brown patch around its left eye.

I named her Lady. She was a part of our family for more than 16 years, through junior high, high school, college and early marriage. We roamed the creeks, hills and caves around Van Buren together. She chased rabbits in the fields behind our parsonage in Troy, Missouri and slept faithfully by my bed every night.

Yes, tears were shed many years later with her passing. Lady was this boy’s best friend.

Edward “Ned” Walsh of Princeton is a retired Baptist denominational worker who served as executive director of Johnston County Habitat for Humanity from 2004-08.