When I was a boy, I had a dog I named Prince, a black Labrador Retriever. Me and Price went everywhere together. We were buddies. We especially like the trails in the woods — lots of things to sniff there — and there was one spot on one of the trails under a pine tree that was my favorite. It had deep shade in the summer, the pungent fragrance of pine, and a thick layer of pine needles on the ground under the tree, and if you took your sneaks off, which I always did, the pine needles felt nice under foot, soft and cool to the touch, even in August. But more than that, that tree was one of the best climbs in the woods. You went up the branches and when you got to the top, you poked your head out above all the other treetops and you could see for miles. And when I got down again, there was Prince looking up at me and wagging its tail and jumping around expectantly. That was Prince, my buddy.
I had my own sailboat, a Beatlecat. One day I decided to just go for a sail out to sea. Sail for a bit and then tack around and come back. Why not, there was a nice breeze? So I got the sail up and was on my way out to sea when I looked back and could see a little black dot on the surface of the water — and the little black dot was following me. It was Prince! Now I don’t know about you, but that’s a pretty remarkable loyalty — to swim after a boat that’s going out to sea. Would you do that? I wouldn’t. But Prince did.
We had this dock that was pretty long. The first part of the dock was high and wooden, and then there was a ramp that went down to a floating pontoon that went up and down with the tide, and that pontoon was connected with three other similar pontoons, so in total the dock was, as I said, pretty long. One thing about Prince and labs in general, that kind of dog really takes to the water — just loves to swim, and after a good swim, loves to spray anyone foolish enough to stand too close.
Anyway, one of my favorite things I liked to do with Prince was to take a stick and at the very beginning of this long dock, I’d show the stick to Prince, get him all excited because he knew what was next, and then I’d give that stick a tremendous toss. Prince would bolt down the wooden part of the dock, sprint down the ramp, dash over the pontoons, and take a mighty leap off the end of the dock, and swim, stroking like crazy, until it got to the floating stick, and would then snap its jaws triumphantly on the prize. Everyone standing nearby who had never seen this dramatic display before would just be gaping with astonishment. That was Prince — showing off. I swear he knew everyone would be watching.
I’m 70 years old now — a far cry from that little boy, a regular Tom Sawyer…and many miles away from those fond and familiar shores, and my buddy Prince is long since departed. But I carry him with me still.
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