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      We had a dog once. She was a pure breed American Cocker Spaniel and her name was Princess Tisha Land of Old Black Jo. We called her Tisha. She was living in a pet shop when my wife, Barbara, and I first saw her. We had never had a dog, so we decided to buy the little black ball of fur. She cost $75, and that was probably the best buy I ever made.
    The first night away from her home, we set up a cardboard box full of shredded papers and put it next to our bed so we could tend after her if she whined or needed a soft pat on the head or a neck scratched. After a few nights by our bed, when she had trained herself to go outside to relieve herself, we removed the box and she just slept on the floor. She liked being close by and we liked her there too.
      Soon Tisha seemed to be very attached to me. She would follow me around, I would give her crunchy Nabisco doggie bones, and at night we would take a walk around the block. I never needed a leash, because if she strayed too close to the street, all it took was a click of the tongue and a "come Tisha", and she would heel right along side of me. She never failed to respond to this quiet command. I knew she just wanted to be close to me.
      Like most dogs, Tisha loved to go riding in the car. She would hop up in the front seat and sit right down if we were alone, or jump between us if Barbara was along. I can see Tisha's face clearly now, with her tongue hanging out and what I thought was a contented smile on her face.
      Every so often we would take her with us when we went boating at my parents' home in Lake Isabella. She would hop right in the boat and hang her head over the side, enjoying the soft spray of the wake of the bow. When we would dock, and I dove in for a swim, Tisha would dive right in after me, swimming right up next to me, and I had to be careful of her paws reaching out while she dog paddled. Tisha was a water dog and a hunter and had no fear of any body of water.
      One year, when Tisha was in heat, apparently a neighborhood romeo made its way into the yard and what do you know, after a while she gave birth to some little puppies. I built a dog house for her and she guarded her pups day and night. I tried to reach in and pet them once, and for the first and last time, Tisha growled at me. Her instincts were greater than her love for me, and that was okay, as she wasn't ready to give them up yet.
      Tisha loved two things. Her dog bones, and tennis balls. She must have gone through a dozen or more balls, chewing on them, chasing them, just generally enjoying them, in the house or out on the lawn.
      One thing for sure, Tisha was not a good guard dog. She wouldn't raise a racket if someone she didn't know came in the yard. But if a stranger came in the house, she would hunch up and all the hair on her back would stick straight up, and out would come a slight growl, not a big bark, just a low rumble. We didn't like barking dogs anyway, so we even loved her for that. Funny that the two people she growled at the most when they came to visit, was Barbara's father, and my best friend.
      Tisha had one quirk that got our attention. Whenever I went away for any length of time, when I returned she would squat down and wet. I'm sure she was just excited to see me. The same thing would happen when we took her to the vet. Once she got through the front door, she would squat down and go all over the waiting room. After a while, I just carried her into the office, and we were ushered right in to the examination room. And when I set her on the table, she would quiver like she was cold, but I knew she simply wanted to get out of there and go home. And that was okay too.
      Well, as is always the case, time moved on and Tisha grew old. She was going blind and began to stagger and bump into things. I knew what was coming, but I also knew it wasn't going to be easy to say goodbye. As much as is possible, I began to mentally prepare myself for the inevitable day that I knew wasn't too far off. This really can't be done with much success, but I at least made an effort.
      I buried this very best friend, Princess Tisha Land of old Black Jo, in the back yard of our home. I placed Tisha in a used, very special, white percale pillowcase, and tucked it inside a black plastic bag. I put a Nabisco dog bone and a tennis ball in with her, and hugged her. I have not yet met anyone who has surpassed the love she showed me every day of her life. I don't think I ever will.
A Time to Weep, A Time to Rejoice
Laramie Boyd
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