Walking With a Friend
by Michael McGinnis
One of my dearest friends and I have a special time that we share together whenever we can. Her name is Bebe — she is a German shepherd. Bebe is not my dog, she is part of the family of friends I stay with when I travel to Whitehorse, 430 km from my home in Mayo.
I usually leave Mayo to travel to Whitehorse after work on Fridays — often not leaving home until after 7:00 pm and traveling through the dark on snowy roads. I often reach my friends' house after 1:00 am when all the people are away in their dream worlds, but most often Bebe is waiting silently, standing by the door as I open it to enter. She sees me, and her tail starts to wag.
Bebe and I are delighted to see each other again and I kneel down to look into her glistening chestnut eyes. I put my hands on her ears to pet her there and put my face against hers, so we are eyes staring into eyes. I tell her how happy I am to see her. Her tail thumps the floor.
Bebe's heart is like that of a small child — there are simple things that she loves to do over and over with her friends. It's a long drive to get there, and I am usually very tired when I arrive, but there are some things that children and animals depend on adults for — and a time for sharing and being together is a big one.
It just takes one little hint: I'll whisper "walk?" so quietly I can't hear it myself, or simply zip up my jacket. She leaps to the door, bouncing up and down, whining with eagerness. Out the door we go for a walk, in the middle of the night. Through most of the year it is pretty cold, the stars are often blazing, and at one thirty in the morning there's very little highway traffic. Bebe scouts through the bush looking for squirrels: standing on her back legs she paws longingly against tree trunks for the unattainable, agonizingly delightful squirrel totally safe 10 m above the ground. In the summer she digs frantically into burrows of ground squirrels. I encourage her to even greater useless efforts with a laugh — she ignores my amusement with her dignity intact.
We don't use words, but we talk. I set the direction but she leads us. If I turn around and start back the other way, she streaks by me to maintain her position about 20 metres ahead of me. She dodges with a sly grin on her face if I try to catch her as she passes. I laugh as she goes by — I can make her run back and forth endlessly just by switching directions every few seconds — but she is determined to win this game and keeps it up until I give up first.
But I've noticed changes in the last couple of months. First, she was just less active than before — still eager to walk but now she would lie down for a rest about 100 m from the highway, and not come with me all the way to the road. Bebe is getting older and it hurts her to move sometimes.
Most recently I arrived at Bebe's house after 1:00 a.m. again, and was met in the night in the usual delightful way. But when I suggested a walk, she wagged her tail but didn't go to the door. I was on my own. I took my walk, alone under the stars, sad that Bebe couldn't be there. Her health had declined further, but when I returned to the house she greeted me enthusiastically all over again — glad that I had gone for our walk that she couldn't do.
Time passes and life brings changes. We don't always welcome them. Its not always clear to us that changes which close one happy period are opening the door to even more loving times hidden in the mists of time to come. As Soul, we know that life arranges events for our spiritual benefit. We learn to trust that things always work out for the best when we let all Souls — dogs, and people too — freely be who they are and who they want to be. True friends are friends in Spirit, friends beyond time, and the cycles of birth, death and rebirth will always bring us together again. Maybe we will soon walk again under Yukon stars, or maybe not again until we are both together under a heavenly sky that very few here remember. But walk together again we will, and we will both laugh.