He showed up quite unexpectedly at our door on a lazy afternoon in the autumn of 2003, grinning and endlessly wagging his tail, as if to say “I’m home!” Except he wasn’t home—at least not at his home. My wife and I were temporarily residing in a small RV next to our new house under construction. As we were already sharing our cramped quarters with seven other canines, he was about as welcome as a mother-in-law in a wheelchair.
Still, he refused to leave, though I sheepishly admit that we really did not finesse the gentle art of persuasion to any degree whatsoever. He had complete run and domain over the entire neighborhood back then, as there were few houses and fewer people. He took full advantage of his libertine status, and would chase after us for miles when we would drive downtown. Yet he somehow always managed to find his way back and be faithfully waiting for us upon our return—forever sporting that same silly grin that seemed to never leave his face.
He was a young lad, not yet fully grown into his muscular body. When he attempted to run, his legs flailed about in every possible direction. Thus, he moved with the delicate grace of an old car limping along on a flat.
However, he soon grew out of his awkward adolescence into the handsomest dog I have ever laid eyes on, and he grew more quickly still, into our hearts. We named him “Goober,” after the immortal T.V. character whose affable nature and loveable goofiness endeared him to audiences throughout the world. There never was a dog more aptly named.
Goober passed away last month at the tender age of five. Within the short span of four days, he went from the healthiest dog on the planet to not being able to lift himself from the floor. I am not fond of playing the role of God, but fortunately I had two of the best vets in the South, Drs. Timmerman and Groover (geniuses, the both), assure me that there was nothing to be done except the inevitable. I smothered his face in kisses until long after he had breathed his last.
The house seems eerily quiet now, despite the presence of nine other dogs residing within. Our lives, and the lives of our friends and loved ones, can never be truly measured in, nor fairly judged on, chronological years alone. The emotional imprints that we leave upon others during our short time on earth endure far longer than we could ever realize.
“Remember, my sentimental friend,” said the Wizard to the Tin Man, “that a heart is judged not by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others.” In this regard, Goober’s heart was larger than the fields through which he is inevitably boundingat this very moment—no doubt, still sporting that same silly grin.
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