I’ve harbored hundreds of mementos, souvenirs, tokens, remembrances and enduring reminders of people, places and events of my lifetime – so far. I would imagine that anyone inclined to take a whack at a memoir, as I have, is the kind of person who is hapless to avoid squirreling away keepsakes in a jar, a box – or documenting our innermost thoughts and experiences on a page. I wear perhaps my most valued keepsake around my neck. To wit:

This charm evokes the spirit of a companion who is incapable of being anything other than loving and honest. Photo courtesy of Buddy Doyle

About 10 years ago, we noticed that our dog, October, wasn’t acting her fine self. Walking up the hill after a morning walk one day, she stopped short, sat and looked at me, forlorn. It was time to visit her vet. He took some X-rays as we anxiously awaited the results. When he came back in, I did not need to see them. They were written on his face. We were advised, counseled and concurred that the paw-writing was on the wall. The aftercare service gave me her remains along with a paw print in plaster – and a small metal charm. A golden retriever – with angel wings.

About this same time, I was having some misgivings about my church. I was born and raised Catholic, and the Vatican had recently come out with yet another bundle of blather excusing or circumventing their pedophilia pandemic, involving, as we all know now, more than just a few “priests” or, more accurately, criminals. I’ve known many fine priests who stood above this squalor. But I digress.

For many years I’d worn a scapula medal around my neck. It reads: “I am a Catholic. In case of an emergency, please call a priest.” I wondered, at the time, why I still wore it, or why I’d needed one.

Like humans, dogs occasionally misbehave. But unlike humans – and perhaps the Vatican – they seem to be readily willing to accept responsibility for their transgressions and the consequences of their bad behavior without deflecting blame, or manufacturing thinly veiled excuses.

Since then, I wear that dog-angel charm around my neck. Embedded behind it, a fragment of October’s bone. A keepsake … to remind me that a dog’s love is pure, unconditional and (I want to believe) everlasting. As love should be. These days, in the event of an emergency, please call a golden retriever – and kindly fetch me a cold beer. God will surely find us.

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