Man’s Best Friend

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There once was a dog named Stormy. When he was very young, a man became his friend and carefully introduced him to all sorts of people, places and situations. He kept little Stormy away from frightening things, and Stormy grew up to love people and the world.

Every morning of his life, he jumped as far onto his friend’s side of the bed as he was allowed, excited to see his friend again and eager to start the new day.

Every time visitors came, Stormy bounced all over. “Lie down!” said his friend, and Stormy obeyed but couldn’t lie still and crawled to the guests, his tail thumping the floor.

Stormy was an Airedale — the king of the terriers. He was 65 pounds — tough, strong, fast, and sweet. He loved other dogs, and he loved chasing deer in the big yard. But when the deer realized he wouldn’t hurt them, they stopped running and just looked at Stormy. And he looked back, not sure if he’d rather chase them or play.

Stormy and his friend went everywhere together: the farm in Ohio, the beach in Florida, even some big cities. But their favorite thing was fishing on Lake Huron in Michigan. They often left before sunrise, and Stormy was the first in the boat.

One fall day, his friend took Stormy duck hunting. Stormy stayed out of sight as his friend and the other men hid, waiting. When the ducks flew in, the men stood and flames shot from their guns, and thunder shattered the air. And some of the ducks who had been flying moments before now floated dead in the water.

Stormy didn’t like it. And from then on, whenever his friend carried a gun, Stormy shied away. His friend, however, hadn’t noticed, and the next time he fired his gun on the island, Stormy ran as far away as he could, deep into the woods, where coyotes and wolves lived.

His friend searched and searched and was very happy when he finally found Stormy the next day. And that was the last time he carried a gun around Stormy.

For Stormy, the years passed happily with a similar rhythm. Late winter and early spring meant trips to the farm. Summer and fall meant life on the island in Michigan and fishing. He loved roaming free on the farm and the island.

Then came the holidays, the happy times when the three children returned home. January was the toughest. It was too cold for Stormy to stay outside long, and it was his friend’s busiest work month. “We just need to make it through January,” he told Stormy.

On one January morning, Stormy woke his friend as usual, and they went downstairs. His friend stopped at the bottom stair and sat down with Stormy. He did that sometimes, giving Stormy a little hug and saying nice things. But on this morning, he gave Stormy the longest hug of his life, and he said the nicest things he’d ever said. His friend was surprised by it himself and smiled and said, “Hmm.”

On that day, under the snow, Stormy’s electric fence didn’t work as he reached the edge of the yard. So Stormy decided to visit the dogs he’d often heard barking. Maybe some new friends. As he crossed the road, something big and fast and hard hit him. And the last thing he remembered was lying down to rest.

Some people say an angel came and took his spirit to heaven. His body, however, lay there peacefully, waiting for his friend, who searched and searched and finally found him.

He carried Stormy back to the yard and together they climbed the long hill to the house one last time — right to the spot where Stormy always sat, surveying the broad expanse below. The man said a prayer and buried Stormy there. The man also remembered something his grandmother had once said, and he said, “Well, we were fortunate to have had him as long as we did.”

Word spread across the neighborhood — many others had searched for Stormy too — and even across the country. And family, friends, the garbage man — even people who’d never met Stormy— were sorry to hear that he had left the world.

And in the next week, something unusual happened. A procession of animals came to the spot where he was buried. First, it was birds, then squirrels, then a rabbit. And finally, a herd of deer came right to the spot — a place they’d never been when Stormy was alive. And they paused for a few minutes, as if to say farewell, before slowly descending the hill.


Douglas Heuck

A journalistic innovator, Heuck has been writing about Pittsburgh for 25 years, as an investigative reporter and business editor at The Pittsburgh Press and Post-​Gazette and as the founder of Pittsburgh Quarterly. His newspaper projects ranged from living on the streets disguised as a homeless man to penning the only comprehensive profile in the latter years of polio pioneer Dr. Jonas Salk to creating a statistical means of judging regional progress that has led to similar projects across the country. Heuck’s work has won numerous national, state and local writing awards. His work has been cited in the landmark media law case “Food Lion vs. ABC news.”

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