Does anyone else see a dog lying beside the sergeant at the left of this group? The caption in the Library of Congress identifies this picture as "B Company, 22d New York State Militia near Harpers Ferry, Va., 1861 [i.e.1862]." There are a number of photos in the LOC collection for the 22d New York Militia, including several of individual officers. I'll look through them to see if this officer is identified.
I had an incident that happened to me last September involving an all-white German Shepard named, Thunder.
Thunder belonged to an ex-Marine here in the community I now call home in Ocala, Florida, and he used to walk Thunder all the time throughout the neighborhoods. Thunder would see me and my dog, Cali, riding my golf cart to a patch of open, grassy ground the neighbors called "poopie park," the place we all treated as a dog park to let the little four legged guys run around and play with each other and do their "business." When Thunder saw us, he would run up to us, knowing I carried with me the best bacon treats in my cart's glove compartment and bury his nose there until I gave him some snacks. He was always gentle, never barked, and treated all the other little dogs around him (as he towered over all of them) like they were little retarded children to be shown nothing but kindness and pity.
I grew to love seeing the big guy and always snuck him treats, even when Steve his owner didn't want him to. He was just too great a dog to say no to. Then it happened.
Thunder started to get problems with his back legs, at first walking with a limp, then eventually losing the use of both his back legs. I drove by Steve's one day during that fateful last September on a Saturday, and he was clearly on the ragged edge of his feelings. He had decided, with enormous difficulty, that Thunder was now in constant pain and needed to be put down. If any of you had seen him and his condition, you would have agreed.
At that time, Steve had no way to take Thunder to the vet so I volunteered to drive them both to my vet. While Steve went inside to talk to the vet, to see if there was any hope at all to save Thunder, the big dog and I sat in my car, me in the front at the steering wheel, and Thunder in the back seat, all the while crying for Steve to come back to him. I'll be honest, through my own tears, I tried to comfort that magnificent dog, speaking in a soft, soothing tone, chocking back my own sobs as to not give him any more grief.
Steve came back out to the car, took Thunder in his arms, and asked me to come inside with him. I did. He then took Thunder back into a rear exam room with a nurse and the vet. As I sat waiting, I heard Steve talk to Thunder, calming him down, telling him what good dog he was being, and how much he loved him. In a few minutes, such a wail of pain came from that small room, as Steve let go of his long-time friend and his pent-up sorrow at losing him forever. Steve, as of this day, has yet to get another dog.
Now, why this sad tail? Because Steve recently reminded me of Thunder and thanked me for helping him and his dear pet that September day. And the memory got me thinking about dogs. If you're reading this post, you've read the quote at the beginning by Will Rogers. I have a hope not based on that quote. I pray dogs are in heaven because I trust they are pure in heart and have great souls. Why? Because if, again, you are like me, you trust dogs more than you do people. People can be cruel, indifferent, uncaring, harsh, judgmental and so unfeeling to those around them. Dogs, on the other hand, tend to love us, trust us, and are kind to us, no matter how forgetful we are with them or sometimes ignore their wants and needs. They love us in spite of ourselves.
My feeling is if all we have is St. Peter at the Gate to pass us on through on our human abilities and shortcomings, there ain't a lot of us getting through. But if there is a dog beside St. Pete, when ol' Pete is about to give us a thumbs down, the dog, which will be able to speak in that place, might say, "Just a minute, St. Peter. This one petted a dog, gave one juicy treats, walked many others, and held some close when they were lost and cold. They loved a dog, without reservation, showed no cruelty to them and cried when they passed on. I say, let him through." And Ol' Pete defers to the dog.
God, I hope so, as I would trust that dog over any other human who would try and speak in my behalf. We have so many 'strikes' against us from the outset. Maybe our only hope is that of a good dog.