"Take any one you want," Mr. Tucker, the owner of the hardware store said.
I looked down at eight of the most beautiful fuzzy little black pups my eyes had ever seen. They all looked identical, with the exception that one was much tinier than the others. So, being a small boy and a runt of sorts, I picked up the smallest one in the litter. She licked my cheek and pressed her cold, wet nose to my skin. She was just a fuzzy pup, and she was mine, all mine. With my heart racing, I held her close and whispered, "Let's go home girl, I can’t wait to show you Lawson’s Ridge!"
Now, what shall I name my little friend? I mused as she played around my feet. Just then John Newcomb, my brother-in-law, dropped a penny, which went rolling across the floor. In a flash, the pup snatched it and gulped it down. "That's it! I’ll name her Penny!"
Over the years that cute little shepherd pup grew into a beautiful dog with a tan body, a black saddle and mask. Penny became my constant companion and best friend. Whether pretending to be cowboys or Indians, or searching for treasures in old man Carter's dump, we grew inseparable. From early morning until late in the day, we romped through the woods and fields, resting, from time to time, in a leaf fort we made up on Lawson's Ridge.
Penny was a real worker and always did more than her share. Sometimes she helped corral Ole Sam, our stubborn mule that frequently broke through the fence on a run. She was equally good at helping me chase down a chicken for Sunday dinner and dragging branches we had gathered for firewood cut from the trees that grew up on Lawson's Ridge.
She was a great protector and took care of any stray dogs sneaking around the house or snakes that might slither into our private territory. Once she saved me from my bully cousin, Randal. He was older than me and threatened to beat me up and take our fort. Penny had other ideas, and I couldn't help but laugh as he cried, "Call off your dog, call off your dog," while running down off Lawson's Ridge.
That dog filled the void in my heart that, at the time, nothing else could. We lived for the moment, loving every one. Time flew by quickly as the hours turned into days and the months turned into years. But time only made us cling to each other more, as the wild vines clung to the Oak trees up on Lawson's Ridge.
Penny grew old far faster than I wanted to see it happen. Living on a farm, I knew well that death was a part of living, but I never thought it would come to her. The afternoon arrived when I called for her, but she never came. I found her around back of the house, whimpering and in great pain. She looked at me with pleading eyes. I motioned for her to come. She stood and moved slowly towards me, dragging her hindquarter. Seeing her discomfort caused my heart to sink and the tears to fall, as do the leaves of autumn up on Lawson's Ridge.
I ran to find Mom, and she inspected Penny. "Son, she's got a cripplin' disease, and I’m afraid she’ll never walk again. I'm sorry, but, she’ll have to be put down."
"Let me do it. She's my dog, and it's my place." With a rifle on my shoulder and a shovel in my hand, I became a man that day up on Lawson's Ridge.
I carried her to the spot where I had dug a hole, and set her gently down beside it. I petted and hugged her tight, not wanting to ever let her go. I told her what a good dog she had been and that I would miss her. She pressed her nose to my cheek and licked my salty face as if to say that it was OK. Then, I cried… how I cried, as I buried my face in the dirt up on Lawson's Ridge!
I said goodbye to my companion and best friend and stood on shaking legs. “Stay, girl,” I said and walked a few paces away. With trembling hands I took aim, squeezed my eyes shut, and pulled the trigger. The crack of the rifle echoed through the hollow and reverberated through the hole in my chest.
I covered her body and placed a marker I had made that simply read; "Here lies Penny, a boy's best friend."
I am much older now, and throughout my life friends have come and gone; there are some I can’t even remember their names. But there’s one friend I will never forget: she’s the one I left up there on Lawson's Ridge.
can’t even remember their names. But there’s one friend I will never forget: she’s the one I left up there on Lawson's Ridge.