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John Eggers: First Simon, then Simone and now Drake

It was a bitterly cold Sunday when I was returning to town driving north on Irvine a few miles south of Buena Vista. I noticed a very nice looking black lab wondering in the middle of the road. It seemed a bit confused; as if it weren’t sure where to go.

What should I do? Should I keep on going and hope it finds its way home or should I stop and see what I could do? Since I had just come from doing the Neilson Center morning service where I talked about taking care of others, my conscious said, “You aren’t going to keep on driving, are you?”

I pulled over and, sure enough, the dog walked toward the car. It was wearing a shock collar so it did belong to someone who cared about it. I drove slowing ahead and the dog followed.

I turned on the first road to the east, which was about a quarter of a mile. My plan was to knock on doors to see if any of the residents knew about the black lab. I turned into the first driveway, knocked on the door (the lab was right behind me), “Do you know of a missing black lab in the area?”

(I will tell you the rest of the story later.)

Simon our golden retriever is 2-years-old, but his “puppiness” is still very much present. He still does his morning surfing of counters and floors to remind us to put away our socks, slippers and underwear. His favorite toy is still a stick. He has learned not to jump when he meets you and his ever-wagging tail showers our home with hair.

He outgrew his kennel a year or so ago and now sleeps near my bed. Before going to sleep, he puts his head by the side for one last reassuring pat and then curls up for his nightly nap only to awaken now and then to chase our cat, Teddy, as he takes his a nightly stroll.

Simon is a good dog who never wanders too far from home; barks at unusual noises and people he doesn’t recognize while at the same time wagging his tail; minds pretty good when bribed by a dog treat; and most of all, he has been a good father to his daughter, Simone.

Simone is now about six-months-old. Unlike her reddish colored father, Simone is an English Cream golden. She still is a puppy and acts like a puppy. She surfs like her dad. She loves chewing on sticks like her dad. She enjoys ripping things up like her dad and she is constantly under your feet, like her dad.

We still keep her in a kennel at night because, unlike her dad, she loves jumping on the bed to awaken us or to just cuddle beside you. Her favorite wake-up strategies are to lick your ear and glasses and bite your hair.

She loves lying on the sofa so we have capitulated and have given her the downstairs sofa. There is a towel on the sofa for her to lie on. Simon doesn’t seem to mind that she is granted this privilege and he isn’t.

Unlike Simon she doesn’t like the cold weather and would rather stay inside curled up by the fire. “Simone, let’s go outside,” I’ll plead. Simone says, “Not today, maybe in the spring.” She has moments of intelligence.

Now let’s talk about Drake. As I wrote in an earlier column, Simon and his mate had a litter of six. We were fortunate, I think, to get the pick of the litter and we chose Simone. One of the six puppies was blind at birth, but it found its way to a home. The owners named the puppy Drake.

Drake didn’t quite fit in. My daughter, via Facebook, became aware that the family was putting Drake up for adoption. She and her husband went to take a look at it and, let’s be honest, how can anyone not like a golden retriever puppy. With their heart filled with compassion, they took Drake to their home where it is gradually adapting to its new surroundings.

So how is Drake doing? Animals truly are amazing creatures. They seem to live with their handicaps better than humans do. The first thing that Drake does when he encounters a new place is make concentric circles until he is familiar with the boundaries, which seem to go into an immediate memory bank in his brain. Once he has a lay of the land, he is just fine.

Yes, we have introduced Drake to his dad and sister. They get along pretty well and are beginning to play together. Drake, who resembles his dad, is still kind of a loner but is doing amazingly well considering his disability.

“Can Drake come over and play?” Simone asks. “Won’t he have a great time this summer when he finds the lake and we can go swimming together and then get everyone all wet?”

Yes, many adventures await Simon, Simone and Drake. I look forward to sharing them with you. But what about the lost black lab?

Dogs are tough creatures, but I am not sure they can take the 20 below temperatures we have had for any length of time. As they say, “It’s too darn cold for man or beast.”

I inquired at the first home I came to and asked if they knew of a black lab in the area. Luck was on my side, or on the side of the dog, because it ran right into their home.

I had to tell Simon and Simone my story when I returned and they both wagged their tail with joy. “Way to go, Pop,” they said.

Yes, animals do teach you compassion, don’t they?

JOHN R. EGGERS of Bemidji is a former university professor and area principal. He also is a writer and public speaker.