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"He's not here. Precious, do you know where Pup is? Have you seen him lately?"

"You're the one who loves on him and named him Pup. He responds to your voice. Call him."

"I have. But I haven't seen him for three days."

The topic at hand was the dog that lives, or lived, next door to us. When I first saw him ... when was it? Two or three years ago? When we traveled, time flew by quickly. But I remember the first time he greeted me. Oh, it definitely was not a friendly greeting!

I went out to work in the back yard when a deep-throated mouth erupted just the other side of the fence. I suppose the full-grown dog was napping, and I startled it. I called him "Pup" because I couldn't remember the name the little kids in the yard called it. But Pup jumped up, fur on its neck in a full bristle, anger -- or fear? -- on its face, with noises being emitted from its mouth at full throttle.

I approached the fence to talk with it, but that didn't work. Pup feigned an attack, but when I didn't back up, it ran to the house with its sound-system on a high setting. And for the next four or five months, every time Pup saw me in the yard, it stopped whatever it was doing and picked up the barking where it left off. It absolutely would not allow me any opportunity to show my friendliness to it.

Then something happened.

The neighbors brought a pot-belly pig into the family. We watched it grow from piglet to hoglet. It isn't an Arkansas Razorback, but it is big! My name for the critter remained Piglet.

One day Piglet was resting against the fence near to where I was working. I began speaking gently to it and reached out to touch it. Piglet's fur is not fur. It is coarse hair. Almost like a bristle brush.

Perhaps Pup thought I was going to hurt Piglet, and it zoomed up, placed itself between Piglet and me, and proceeded to sound off. Before Pup realized what was happening, I seized the moment and began petting him on his head and massaging his ears.

That was weird: Pup dutifully barking at me, a puzzled look on its face, wanting to bite me but enjoying the kind attention. After five or 10 very long seconds, Pup stopped barking and backed up.

Pup just stood there and cocked its head to one side. As I began gently speaking to it, calling it by my name for it, he slowly backed away. Two days later, I saw Pup through the window, and took a break from writing to see if we could connect.

I slowly walked up and hung my arms over the fence. "Hey, Pup. I like you. You want to be friends? Come on, I won't bite, bark, or even spit." What else would I say to a critter? I was just trying to be friendly.

Believe-it-or-not, Pup came up, sniffed my hand, and let loose with two or three obligatory woofs as he backed up. But then came back. We had connected! From then on, every time I went to the yard, either front or back, Pup came up and wanted me to pet him.

Then something else happened.

When I went to greet Pup, he stood up, put his paws on the fence railing, and as I petted him, he closed his eyes as he placed his head against my arm. He was actually loving me. Or he was enjoying me loving him. Yes, I loved him, too.

Then something else changed.

As I would be loving on Pup, if Piglet or the other dog even came near, Pup would break off and very sternly, with sound system and teeth, warn the other critters to stay away. The last time that happened was a week ago. Then Pup was gone.

"Precious, I found out what happened to Pup."

"Oh, where is he?"

"The neighbors said Pup was jealous of the other animals, and needed a yard of his own. So they gave him away."

"Well, look at you: a cat person who fell in love with a dog."

"Yeah, but don't rub it in."

Friends, I normally talk about relationships with Jesus, but it's okay to talk about experiences God allows us to have. I'll miss the dog next door.

--GENE LINZEY IS A TEACHER, AUTHOR AND MENTOR. SEND COMMENTS AND QUESTIONS TO [email protected] VISIT HIS WEBSITE AT WWW.GENELINZEY.COM. THE OPINIONS EXPRESSED ARE THOSE OF THE AUTHOR.

Religion on 05/13/2020

Print Headline: I'll Miss The 'Pup' Next Door

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