Who’s a good boy? My dog Woody was a good boy
He was the best dog ever.
We probably all say that about the dog that made the biggest impact on us.
Mine was Woody. And I didn’t even want him at the beginning.
It’s not that he wasn’t cute and adorable. He was.
It’s not that he wasn’t free to us and that our children were in love with him before I ever laid eyes on him. He was, and they were.
But we had lost so many animals where we lived — to the woods or the highway (and the things that roamed each) — and I wasn’t sure I was ready for another commitment to another animal we might not have for long.
But my wife had taken our children with her to Walmart and someone in the parking lot was offering free puppies. They were pit bull-mutt mixes and my two boys and their toddler sister claimed a little buff-colored cutie.
When they yelled, “Daddy! Guess what we got at Walmart!” I was not expecting “a puppy” to be the answer.
But there he was. His favorite napping spot in those first few days was on top of the firewood pile, so I suggested we name him “Woody.”
Woody became my daughter’s best buddy. As they grew together, she’d walk around with her arm wrapped tightly around Woody’s neck, practically dragging him wherever she went. But he went willingly.
He was her protector. Every time he thought she might be in danger — from another animal, a car passing the house or even her daddy fussing at her — he’d stand sideways in front of her and move accordingly to keep himself between her and the perceived threat.
He was very friendly and playful and tough. He survived being attacked by a couple of other dogs on more than one occasion, when I was sure he’d die from each of those attacks. When we moved to another home, in another state, and were on a residential street, Woody found friends in the neighbors while his family was at work and school.
He walked every morning with one woman who made her rounds through the neighborhood. When he saw her coming, he’d walk out to meet her at the street, then accompany her on her trek until she turned toward her own home, and he’d trot back to his. Ours.
He jogged in the afternoons with a man who traveled a similar path to Woody’s morning outings. The woman and man both told me later that Woody would place himself between them and neighborhood dogs as they traveled, especially those that barked at passersby. The people felt protected and like Woody really was their friend.
Woody died protecting part of our family. It wasn’t me or my wife, or our children. It was one of our cats. Our very stubborn cats. The cat was doing what cats do … napping in the street. When a van approached, Woody rushed into the street barking to get the cat out of the way of danger and to safety. The cat ran and Woody was struck by the vehicle.
The driver was mortified. Our neighbor and friend was standing with my wife on our steps, both crying, when I pulled up from work. I had no idea what was going on, but I was very concerned to see them like that.
I had driven right past my mortally wounded dog, now in the grass of our lawn, without even noticing.
We missed that dog. Still do. That was more than a decade ago.
“Where’s my friend?” “Where’s my buddy?” were the questions the walker and jogger asked, after knocking on our door to see where Woody had gone. I think they were just as upset as we were.
I will always miss that dog. I’ve had others, and other good ones. But Woody was the best. Paws down.
I’m not going to debate whether our pets go to heaven — I’ve read good arguments from both sides — but when I die, I sure wouldn’t mind seeing Woody again.
Who’s a good boy? He was.
Brett Campbell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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