He came to our little farm when I was, oh, nine years old, maybe ten. That would have made it...what? 1964, '65 I suppose. Everyone he met called him Sarge, but truth be known, he was never in the Army. It was just that since everyone called him Sarge, I did, too.

Looking back over all those many decades, while i was growing up on that little farm I'm not totally sure that anyone taught me any more or any better than Sarge. He taught me things that, unknown to me at the time, would stay deep inside all through my years plodding along on the planet.

Funny thing is, I don't think Sarge ever realized he was teaching a little kid anything.

This stranger that became my best friend, well...he taught me discipline. He taught me that, if you do what you're supposed to do, people will appreciate that a lot and somehow, somewhere along the way, you'll be rewarded. Oh, it might not be money (make that probably won't be money) and it might not even be something you can see. But he taught me that you will be rewarded if you do what's right.

Sarge taught me that it's plum OK to work hard and plum fine to play hard, too. He taught me to fully enjoy each and every day and, in fact, to enjoy the moment. Yep, he taught me in those hot, sweaty summer July days to enjoy it! He taught me that on those below zero windy snowy days in January to...well, enjoy that too, and every day in between. He taught me it's OK to run through the rain, to splash in a puddle in the middle of a muddy farm yard. He taught me that all those things were OK because it just plain felt good!

Sarge taught me it was OK to sometimes feel afraid. He taught me that, no matter how old you are or how big you are (he was big!) that sometimes you are just plain afraid, anxious. And that's OK, Sarge taught me, that's OK.

Sarge taught me to love and protect my family, no matter what. He never let anyone hurt his.

And maybe most of all, Sarge taught me unconditional love. Heck, as a kid I didn't even know what that was, what that meant. But 'Ol Sarge, he didn't care that I didn't know, he taught it to me anyway. Perhaps he knew that one day I would understand it, or maybe he didn't even know he was teaching it. But the fact is I do understand, all these many years later, and I remember it was him that taught it to me.

Sarge came into my life when I was nine, maybe ten. He was younger than me, did I mention that? But something strange happened, something kind of sad.

When I was just a bit shy of eighteen years old, I left that farm. And yet, somehow in those eight or nine or ten years, Sarge passed me up. He got old, a lot older than me somehow...and then before too long, Sarge was gone. And since then I've always wondered....

Why is it a dog don't live too long and yet they die so old?

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