Twas dark by the time my older sisters and I returned from our youth group Bible study. Mom was in the kitchen, I believe, cleaning the dishes after supper. My three younger siblings were in their rooms. The television was turned off, which I thought was odd. Mom and Dad usually watched the nightly news.
When mom saw us, she stopped and frowned.
Have you ever known what someone was going to say before they said it?
“Dad’s on the back porch,” she said. “It’s Meshach.”
Dad bought Meshach for my oldest sister when we moved to our Lindale home, though he soon became known as the family’s pet. He was a black and white sheepdog that looked like he had just came from a movie set.
He was smart, patient, and protective of us kids. Thankfully, hew seemed to know children and how they behave when they see animals, and wouldn’t attempt to bite or bark at us when we attempted to “pet” him the first time.
For reference, watch any toddler’s first attempt to “pet” an animal: after waddling over to their victim, toddlers will raise their hand, sometimes two, as high as they can, and will bring it crashing down like God’s wrath on its furry destination, only to repeat the process until their parents pull them away; or, once having felt the soft fur, will proceed to clench with all their might, attempting to take some fur home as a souvenir.
Meshach was young when we got him, so in a sense, we grew up together. And as we grew, dad showed us how to teach him tricks. So, we taught him how to play catch with tennis balls and frisbees, and shake hands, heel, lay down, and roll over.
There’s a bond that’s formed between a boy and his dog that at times defies description, and at other times can be simply described by the cliché that dogs are man’s best friend.
Meshach was my best friend.
He was always there when I got home, waiting in the back yard, ready to play catch, follow me around the yard as I went exploring, or simply sit beside the makeshift pitcher’s mound Dad made for me and watch me strike out imaginary batter after batter until it was time for supper.
Dad would have me help him with yardwork every Saturday morning – after my Saturday morning cartoons, which consisted of Batman the Animated Series, Spider-Man, and X-Men Evolution. I would look over at dad, tending the garden or laying the stone bricks around the house under the morning sun, Meshach at his side, wagging his tail as he followed dad around the house.
All my childhood memories involved, in some way, that beloved sheepdog.
Meshach began to grow old and weak as I grew up. I outgrew many things I loved when I was a young child, but I didn’t outgrow my dog. We still played catch – though he returned the ball a little slower. But he was still the same family dog.
Then one day my sisters and I returned from youth Bible study and everything changed.
I stepped outside, onto the back porch. Ahead and to the left stood a row of firewood for the winter. We would stack the firewood, as high as my head, all around the porch; our own fortress of wood. I used to play Davy Crockett out there as a youth, coon-skin hat and all, with my trusty companion, Meshach, at my side. The fortress had dwindled to my waist. Dad was sitting down to my right. He was cradling Meshach’s breathless body in his arms, and through tears said, “Meshach is dead.”
That was the second time I saw dad cry.
We buried him in the back yard the next day. Though we have since moved from our Lindale home and left his body in the grave, I don’t think I’ll ever find a better dog than Meshach.
Jesse and I just brought home a cat. Jesse named her Applesauce. She’s no Meshach, but she’ll do. Plus, she’s already growing on me.
Joseph Hamrick is a semi-professional writer and sometimes thinker. He lives in Commerce and serves as a deacon at Commerce Community Church (C3). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.