by Richard L Cohen
King was a special member of our family when I was growing up. He was extraordinary in that he was supremely loving, kind, sweet, noble, and intelligent. He was my best friend, like my brother and my son all wrapped into one. I should also mention that King was large, handsome, and extraordinarily powerful, even for a German Shepherd. Yet he was as gentle as he was powerful. He was so veeeery special!!!
I am in my mid-fifties now and still remember King as though it was only yesterday when we were together. There were so many things he did that were so funny and touching that I still feel the intense love we shared so deeply.
I remember a number of dilemmas which confronted King, which he dealt with in his own special way. Once King and I were with a friend of mine when my friend and I got into a minor scuffle. It was troubling to King to watch us rolling around on the ground, kind of wrestling. He was trying to figure out whether we were really fighting or just playing around. Either way he quickly decided that he needed to break it up, He correctly determined that it was more of a play fight, so instead of entering the fight himself, or attacking my friend, which was contrary to every impulse in King's personality, he simply grabbed one of our hats and ran off. We stopped what we were doing and ran after him, which was exactly what he wanted us to do. So much for the fight.
Another time a grown man known to my Dad but not to King was walking from our house to the back yard, between my Dad and me. King was out back, harnessed by a long, heavy steel chain (my Dad was in the steel business) to his dog house. He was standing at the full extension of the chain as he watched us approach. King was very protective of his family, and something about the man apparently gave him cause to fear for our safety, so from a standing still position, he abruptly ran toward us, snapping the heavy steel chain as though it were a thin twig. I can only imagine the fear that this large man must have felt to see a dog like King, obviously powerful enough to snap that chain as though it wasn't even there, running toward him full speed ahead. But King did not have a mean bone in his entire body; he just wanted to be sure that my Dad and I were safe. When he was close enough to catch the man's scent, he immediately realized that this man was not a threat to us, and stopped as suddenly as he had started. Everything was okay again.
King never enjoyed swimming. To the contrary, he avoided it. However, my Dad and I liked to take walks around Lake of the Isles, and we would always bring King with us. We quickly learned that if either of us had crossed the channel ahead of the other, King wanted so much to be with both of us that he would jump in the water and swim to the other side of the channel to be with whoever had crossed. Then he would jump into the water to swim back to whoever was left behind. Sometimes we would purposely go to the channel, and my Dad would be with King while I disappeared for a short time, only to reappear on the other side. We knew King would swim back and forth across the channel in order to be with both of us.
At home we had a large raft, like an army raft, which we enjoyed using to paddle on the lake. I remember once or twice going to the lake with my Dad, King and a friend of mine. My friend and I would inflate the raft, climb in and begin paddling away from shore. This obviously presented quite a dilemma for King because he wanted to be together with all of us. My Dad would stay behind with King, and try to hold him lovingly and calm him, because we knew that King did not like us to be out on the water away from him. But even though my Dad was a big, strong man, and even though King loved him very much, King would quickly break away, jump into the water and swim out to the raft. With his mouth he would then try repeatedly to grab a rope that hung from the side of the raft in order to pull the raft back to shore. But since the rope was hanging from a 'moving' raft and King was trying to grab it with his mouth while swimming, he would end up swallowing half the lake. My friend and I would reach out to King and with considerable difficulty manage to pull him into the raft with us. Quite naturally King would then vigorously shake in the middle of the raft, half filling the raft with. We would then try to dry King as best we could before continuing to paddle for a while. Soon we returned to the shore, where my Dad was watching all of this, awaiting our safe return. Of course, that was when King was happiest, because we were all together again.
King filled my youth with some of the happiest times I can remember while growing up. And now as an adult, King has filled my heart and soul to overflowing with love, and with memories that will last forever. Now I am a Dad myself, and I love telling my son all the wonderful, true stories of growing up with King. And all these decades later, I still miss him so very much, and we'll always be together in my heart and in my memory.