James Lamara, MN, USA
I grew up in a very rural area of Minnesota. A creek served as the boundary between our land and miles of woods on the other end. It was here when I first met "Poobie". I was 9 when some older kids down the road threw a sack into the creek and ran off while I was hunting frogs. I fetched the sack only to find a cold wet puppy in it. I carried her home, dried, fed and kept her warm till my folks came back from town.
My Pa said he did not want a dog. But my Mother felt sorry for her and let me keep her. I named her "Puma." After our local high school mascot. But my baby sister could only say "Poobie." The name stuck. For four wonderful years we were best friends, and she walked me to and from the bus stop every day. Until some heartless individual hit her with their car. I cried for days and my Pa buried her in secret out in the woods. Where he often warned me never to go, on account of the coyotes and bears that were there back then.
When I was 15 my cousins came over with their dirt bikes, and on a whim I "borrowed" one and went through the woods. I was very far out when I crashed and broke my ankle. That evening I could see coyotes gathering around me. I shouted and threw stones at them but they just stayed out of range, and waited for night to fall. I was backed against a tree when late in the evening they came around. One grabbed my trouser leg and tried to drag me away. Terrified, I kicked and screamed but I could barely even see in the darkness. Another bit my coat sleeve and I thought I was going to die. When everything suddenly stopped. I was too afraid to even look up and just lay there in a fetal position sobbing. I then heard soft footfalls in the dry leaves. They stopped near me and I could hear something settling unto the ground. Positive it was a bear I lay motionless all night. I must have fallen asleep some time, and I dreamt of the way Poobie used to wake me every morning with her licking. I woke to hear my name being shouted. It was morning and Pa and our friends and neighbors were looking for me. They found two dead coyotes in the brush nearby and said it was most likely a bear.
Days later I told Pa what had happened and asked him to take me to where he had buried her. My family and I went there and gave her a proper funeral. I brought flowers, her favorite bag of treats, and an old photograph of her with us.
I knew it was she who saved me, and kept watch over me that night. I thanked her for my life, and for the time we shared together. My sister planted a pine cone on her grave which eventually sprouted. When it was my height I placed Poobie's collar around the top. That tree grew enormous, and for years you could see it from the road. I'm old now but I think about her every now and then. Sometimes the most humble of forms contains the most powerful love of all, the love which can transcend death itself.