There’s a reason that there is no photo at the top of today’s post. Read on to find out what it is.

When I was in high school, I had a dog named Sarge. He was a Boxer. He was happy, silly, strong, loving, loyal, friendly, engaging and understanding. He showed everyone he met unconditional love.

His entire purpose in life was to love me and my family. He was happiest when he was close to me. If I moved an inch on the couch he moved an inch closer. He would sleep with his head on my foot. He would occasionally be somewhere in the house and then walk back into my room to check on me. He wanted to make sure I was there.

If I had a bad day Sarge would know and would spend extra time with me. If I was happy, his tail wagged a bit harder. He was a servant. He was a friend. He was a confidant. He was a warrior (remembering the day he chased away a salesman who seemed to have bad intent.)

Sarge was a smart dog. He could sit, roll over, play dead, and bark on command. He loved chasing balls and sticks more than anything. He would sometimes drop a ball at my foot as if to say that he wanted me to play. I didn’t realize it then, but I know now he wasn’t doing that for him. He was doing it for me. He could sense I was down and knew we always had a great time playing catch.

Sarge was selfless. I remember when a stray dog walked into our yard one time. Instead of Sarge chasing him away, he seemed to know the dog needed something. I watched in amazement as Sarge seemed to nudge his food dish toward the other dog who ate happily and hungrily until the bowl was empty. The stray dog left, Sarge looked back at me as if he were satisfied and then laid his head on my foot and went back to sleep.

Sarge died on his seventh birthday of heart failure. I clearly remember it as being one of the worst days of my life. It still is. I was pretty much a basket case that day. While the image of me that many of you have as being a tough guy who tells it like it is may be mostly accurate, on that day, I was a crybaby. I think it is the first time I remember crying. I was 13.

I found a saying reportedly from a young boy who lost his dog. He said, “People are here on this planet to learn to love. Dogs already know how to love so they don’t have to stay as long.”

That made sense to me and helped me to deal with my grief. I haven’t found a better explanation so I choose to believe that one.

Why am I sharing all this information on a photo blog? Simple. I don’t have any photos of Sarge. A month after his death our house burned down and with it every photo of me, my family and my dog. There were no digital backups in those days. The pictures are gone forever. I struggle every day to try to remember Sarge’s big eyes, his floppy tongue and his stub of a tail – which he tried (in vain) to wag valiantly.

If you or a family member has a pet who you love, do yourself and the rest of the family a big favor. Make the next photo project a pet photo project. Go out and do a documentary on the dog, cat, goldfish, whatever. You don’t want to end up like me without even a photo to remember them by.

And maybe those photos will be a slight relief to Sarge – who is no doubt sitting in the next place patiently waiting for me to come play catch with him. Knowing his story might have inspired some of those photos would make his little stub of a tail wag hard as Hell.

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