There was a scene in one of my favorite movies, STRIPES, where Bill Murray asks his platoon who cried when Old Yeller died. No one will admit to it, but Bill presses them until they all raise their hands.
I still remember seeing OLD YELLER when I was a kid. I cried my eyes out when the boy had to shoot his dog. It seemed so unfair and horribly wrong. Couldn't the vet fix him up, I wondered? That movie was just one of the building blocks that was at the very foundation of my love for dogs.
A couple of weeks ago, I stopped off and saw my friends Tom and Jenny Forrest at their ranch in Texas. Jenny takes in any dogs that have been lost or abandoned and does her best to find homes for them. And she is very good at it, she has a high success rate.
When I arrived at the ranch, she ran out the door followed by a big bunch of dogs (as usual) and threw her arms around me. I love hugs, and she is a great hugger. But when I was ready to let go, she pulled me in tighter. I was touched and felt so loved. "How you doing, Bill-doggie."
"Is that my new nickname?"
"I've been calling you that for a while, you just haven't been paying attention."
"Oh, is that it?"
"Yeah, that's it. Tom caught a bunch of catfish, I am cooking them up for dinner tonight. It's going to be a feast."
"You look like you've lost a few pounds."
"Maybe just a few, but that's all."
"Come on inside and tell me all your latest stories from the road."
We went in, and I could not find a place to sit down. They have plenty of chairs and two couches, but all of the dogs had laid claim on every one of them. "So how many dogs do you have now?"
"20 in the house, 15 outside in the pens. And they are a handful."
"But you love it."
"I do. How can I not?"
"You have such a big heart."
"So do you. That's why I love you."
The front door burst open and Tom rushed in. "Jenny, where's my shotgun."
"What? Why do you need your shotgun?"
Tom was hurrying around looking in the closets, the pantry, anywhere and everywhere. "It's those neighbors, they're at it again. They are trying to take my business away."
Jenny stood in Tom's path and grabbed him by the arms. "Hey! Hey! Look at me. Calm the hell down! This isn't the way."
"No more pacifism, its time to get down to business."
"Tom, listen to me! You have to chill out. Let me roll us a doobie and we'll sit and figure out a strategy." Tom seemed to calm down slightly. "You haven't even said hello to Bill yet."
Tom seemed to notice me for the first time. "Oh, hey there Bill. I'm sorry, I'm just so pissed off right now I can't see straight."
"I can see that. Anything I can do?"
"Will you go shoot them for me?"
Jenny laughed. "You don't want to shoot anyone."
Tom laughed back. "Well, I really would like to, but we both know I'm not gonna."
We sat and talked, and I told them a few tales of my adventures which seemed to effectively distract Tom. Before long, Jenny made supper, and it was purely delicious. I've heard that fish is brain food. I can only say for sure that its GOOD food.
They have a little room upstairs where I stay when I visit. It's kind of a loft, separated from their living quarters, and with its own entrance. I was up there after supper mapping out my trip for the next day, when Jenny walked in with a small dog in her arms. "Hey Bill-doggie, you got a minute."
"Got someone I want you to meet. This is Mr. Tom Hanks."
"Like the movie star?"
"Yes, but I think the actor was named after this little guy."
"He's about a year old, and he's an adventurer. He's decided he wants to hit the road, and asked me if he could be yours." She put Tom Hanks into my lap. The little pooch began to lick my face and my heart began to melt. I instantly fell in love with this dog.
"I would love nothing more than to have a dog."
"Well that's good, because now you have one. I've been looking for the perfect dog for you, and now I've found him. Bill Thomas and Tom Hanks, riding around the USA together, getting into all kinds of adventures.
My heart sunk. Because as much as I wanted this dog, I knew it could never work. "Jenny, I love you so much for offering me."
"Nope, this isn't an offer, it's a done deal. He's yours and you are his. Period, end of story."
I let out a long sigh. "I can't."
"Why? You are all alone on the road. Now you'd have a co-pilot and a constant companion. And no one will give you the kind of unconditional love that this little guy will."
"Well then, I'd say you've run out of excuses."
"The thing is, when I'm in between cars to drive, I'm running around on planes, trains, and rental automobiles. I couldn't take a dog along. It wouldn't be fair to him even if I could." Tom Hanks whimpered and licked my face. I felt a huge lump in my throat.
Jenny looked sad, but said that she understood. "One of these days, we're going to get you off the road for good. And then you will have a dog."
"You got it, sister."
"Amen, brother." Jenny leaned over and kissed me on the cheek.
The next day as I drove off from the ranch, I felt that tug at my heart like when I first saw OLD YELLER. My situation makes it next to impossible to have a dog right now. But there are a whole lot of them that need homes, so if you would like a new best friend, my friend Jenny Forrest will be happy to help you out.