I used to drive into town from the suburbs nearly every day of the week. The winding road lapped up against the river bank, but I rarely took time to notice it. I’m usually like a deer with eyes fixed on the headlights and rarely see what’s going on in my periphery vision. Things on the side of the road only become a distraction when they come onto it.
Each day, as I took that tiresome ride into work, I saw an older fellow walking down the side of the road with his Golden Retriever. They appeared to be long time friends. The man would throw a stick out ahead of him – the dog galloped to retrieve it. He’d stop to rest and his dog would lay his head in the man’s lap. He seemed to be out of breath from all the activity. It was clear they cared very much for each other.
Once in a while the man would pedal his old dilapidated, relic of a bike. The dog’s leash was held tightly in his hand and the dog kept up a steady pace alongside his master. The man struggled laboriously over the dusty, rutted path, but it was clear he couldn’t go very fast. The dog often pulled the weight of the bike and the man, but the man didn’t seem to mind. They were like a synchronized watch, with all their gears melding together in perfect harmony.
One day I saw them sitting on a bench sharing a sandwich. The man carefully unwrapped the homemade treat and handed a piece to his old friend. The dog was always first, but while his master ate, he sat quietly watching him and patiently waiting for another morsel. The man chewed with few teeth, but between the two of them they finished it off in no time.
There were days when children would stop to pet the dog. They’d try to get him to fetch a ball, but he stood like a guardian next to his master, never leaving his side. You could tell the dog would’ve loved to join in the child play, but he remained vigilant.
There were times when the sun was just ebbing over the horizon to welcome the morning, and again at day’s end, when I would see them playing on the river bank. Then one day they stopped coming. This was something I had grown accustomed to over my back and forth ritual each day. These two had grown to be part of my life over time. I missed them.
It wasn’t long before I read an obituary in the local paper. I recognized the face in the picture as the man on the river. Apparently his service dog had been hit by a car and when the man went to help it, he also was hit. The two of them died instantly together.
The article also stated that this man was once a successful artist who had lost his sight. The dog had become his eyes and, in the end, the man was his hero. Unfortunately it was too late for both of them.
I haven’t lived in that neighborhood for a long time, but I still remember how inseparable these two were. We never talked, but it was clear to me that this special bond they shared was something that drew me to them.
It reminds me just how important we are to each other. We can’t make it through this life alone. Having someone to depend on was what the two of them relied on. Their dependence on each other, was the glue that held their friendship together even into death. When two are joined in such a way, they really do become one.
When you go to sleep tonight, think about the ones nearest you and how they’ve given purpose to your life. Remember too, that they need you as much as you need them.