A Life Well Lived:  Sooner Boy

A Life Well Lived: Sooner Boy

Sooner was MY dog!  He was not the first dog in my life, by any means.  But, he was the first dog that was really mine.  I was his main person.  Whereas previous dogs in my life were generally either my dad’s or my brother’s dog, Sooner lived and breathed to be my dog.  I loved him for that.

Sooner came into my life through tragedy.  My brother had been living with my folks and I for several months.  Dave was in a rooted period, in his otherwise transient existence.  He had come back to the folks’ place, and was pursuing a certificate in electronics, through a learn-from-home but hands on program.  At one point, he even built my folks a television!  It was so great for me to have Dave around for a while.  One memory in particular of that time, was he and I spending hours playing ping pong in the Methodist church which was right next door to the parsonage where we lived.  We got really good during that time!

Another great advantage of having Dave live with us, was his dog, Sunshine.  Sunshine was a super sweet mutt/border collie.  Of course, I fell in love with her.  I would play with her and Rip (our elderly German shepherd) every day after school.  Sunshine was still definitely Dave’s girl, but I loved her too.

Soon after Rip died (gracefully of old age), Sunshine got hit by a car.  We were all really upset that night.  I was pretty young, but I remember Dave bringing her home, and her being in really bad shape.  She was aware, but had been very mangled by the run-in with the automobile.  It was clear she would not live.  I was, of course, distraught.  But Dave had it harder.  He took Sunshine out somewhere, and shot her in the head.  He was the one who had to put the poor girl out of her misery.  He seemed like it struck him really hard.

In any case, back to Sooner.  Soon after Sunshine died, my sister Mona visited.  I seem to recall it was around Thanksgiving, as I remember it being cold and brown there in northern Missouri.  The loss of Sunshine was still fresh.  Mona and I contrived to talk Dad into getting a new dog.  We talked it up with him, and pestered.  Finally, he gave in, and found us Sooner.  Sooner was also a border collie mix, but instead of black and white, like Sunshine, he was a beautiful orangish-brown and white.  I was super excited, and of course, fell right in love with him.

I was pretty responsible for my age, so I pretty much did all the heavy lifting with raising and caring for Sooner.  We took long walks there in Monroe City, a super small (backwards ass) town in northeast Missouri.  He was definitely my boy!  He had to be wherever I was, as much as possible.  Of course, my mom would not allow an indoor dog, so he slept out in the dog house.  But, after school, I would find him, and spend most of my time with him.  I would even hang out with him in the dog house. 😊  When I was reading on the porch (which I did a LOT of), he would sit under my legs.

And Sooner was very protective of me!  I distinctly remember one day, when he was a few years old, when Mona was home again, and we were taking him for a walk together.  She and I were teasing each other, and pushing and shoving.  Sooner did not care for that!  He gently but firmly jumped onto Mona, with his front legs against her chest, and made it quite clear that she should not mess with his guy — me!

I loved that dog!  But, ultimately, I broke his heart.  Sooner was probably around 6 or 7, when it came time for me leave for college.  I was super excited to start that phase of my life.  I loved college, and quickly started finding out who I was, separate from living with my parents.  But, I left Sooner behind.  Dad always pushed me on this — he kept suggesting that I take Sooner with me.  Of course, this was not really possible.  I was living in the dorms at school, and no dogs allowed.  Plus, I was just a kid!  Mom knew Dad’s request was not rational, and did not let it become an issue.  I don’t believe really there was anything else I could have or should have done.

But, it broke Sooner’s heart!  It is one of the greatest disappointments in my life, that he never understood where his boy went off to.  Why would the most important person in his life simply abandon him?  I would see him, and shower him with love, whenever I was home.  But after my sophomore year, I never really lived at home again.  So, besides the occasional visits, Sooner and I did not spend time together.  Now, Dad took good care of him.  But, it was just not the same.

Sooner passed somewhere during the course of my undergraduate time.  He was getting aged, but I truly feel he lost a lot of his energy when I left him.  I recall that he actually got shot randomly — someone passing down the alley behind my folks house was firing off a gun, and it got Sooner.  Dad took him to the vet, but the decision was made to “put him down”.  I don’t recall for sure, but I don’t think I was there with him, at the end.

I understand where I was at that point in my life.  I don’t begrudge the decision making of my younger self.  I do not feel guilt, per se.  But, I do regret the loss — both my loss of my first dog, and Sooner’s loss of his person.