One journey begins at the end of another

Published 12:43 am Saturday, April 24, 2010

Wednesday, The Times will drop its quarterly edition of ‘pink.’ The coming issue focuses on pets.

I grew up in a cat household. For about as long as I can remember, we’ve had cats. There was Toby, who my dad called “Kibbles.” And then there was Smokey. My dad alternated nicknames for him. but we ended up having Smokey for 16 years. He was a considerable and real part of our family.

Now, the house is run by “Sassy,” an aptly-named feline my mom was conned into taking by a blue-eyed little boy with a slight lisp. And, true to my family’s pattern, we have unofficially adopted a local stray who has now been named “Yam Yamz” or something to that effect. My dad tends to name animals in what seems like a tribal way, it really is kind of the first thing he thinks of.

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Anyway, while all these cats have been great and will always be special to me and my family, it was a dog that really broke my heart.

His name was Journey. He was about nine different breeds and came from the Humane Shelter with classic rock band moniker already in place. But the day I picked him out, it was his temperament that got to me. While all the other dogs were barking for attention, Journey laid still and had almost a sad look about him. Yep. He was the one I was going to get.

So I took him home to my then new and now ex-wife who had so badly wanted a dog. And she liked him.

For about three hours. And when she realized that he was an imperfect dog, she demanded I take him back. Me being an imperfect man, I sympathized with Journey. So he stayed. Ten months later through events in no way related to that one, the house was occupied by me and Journey.

He was an incredible dog. I do not know exactly what emotional capacity exists for animals, but I firmly believe there is some degree of empathy that exists between dogs and their companions. For the next several months following my divorce, I felt as sad as Journey looked the day I first met him. And he was right there the whole way, sitting on the couch and watching baseball, going on walks, and even rolling around in the yard with me.

The last time I saw Journey was Dec. 26, 2003.

I don’t know exactly what happened to him. But I kept an eye out for him for years. Sometimes when I go home to visit my family, I still look around, half expecting to see him dart across the yard with his right ear pointed straight up and the left flopping about.

Had I not lost Journey, I would not have landed back in full-time classes.

I would not have rediscovered my love of writing and newspaper work and I would not have ended up in Demopolis. Still, it is odd to think that losing my Journey was necessary to begin my journey.

Jeremy D. Smith is the sports editor of The Demopolis Times.