by Richard L Cohen
King was a very large and beautiful German Shepherd. He had a thick, heavy coat of beautiful long, shiny brown and black hair. Because of this he was definitely an outdoor dog, and even in the cold of winter, he prefered the outdoors unless the temperature dropped to 10 or 15 degrees below zero. He was immensely powerful, and could easily jump over a five-foot fence. On occasion, we would attach King's leash to the handle of a wagon, and my brother and a friend or I would climb in. King would then give us a ride, pulling the wagon as he ran. Since our Dad was in the steel business, steel chains were available to use instead of rope, and of course were much stronger. When King's collar/harness was attached to his doghouse via a heavy steel chain, on many occasions he would lunge forward and seemingly effortlessly snap the chain, as though it wasn't even there. And yet as powerful as he was, he was truly a gentle giant, for he would never, ever hurt anyone or anything.
Sometimes I would bring big, thick bones that I would get for King at the nearby grocery store, out to the porch to give to him. Since I didn't watch him eat, I could never figure out why the bones were gone when I came back. What had happened to those big bones? The floor was concrete, so he couldn't have buried them, and there were no holes in the screens through which he might have thrown them. He loved those bones, and because his jaws were sooooo powerful, he did not just chew on them. It always amazed me that he literally crunched and ate those bones until they were completely gone.
At night before bed I would bring King his dinner. While he was eating, I sat on the roof of his doghouse and lovingly watched him as he ate. I would speak to him from my perch on his doghouse, and I would call him my "puppy-lover, angel from heaven," because to me, this is what he was. When he was finished eating, he would jump onto the roof and join me. We would sit together, side by side, with my arm over his broad shoulders, and look at the starry sky. Those were very good times in my young life!
King and I used to play tug-of-war together. I would wrap his leash firmly around both of my hands and wrists, and he would hold his leash in his powerful jaws. He would brace himself with all four feet, and would lean waaay back. But because I was heavier than he was, and because I had the advantage of leverage because, at least when standing up, I was taller, I could pull him... that is, until he jerked his head backwards with his powerful neck. That is all he had to do, and I would literally go flying. There was one other antic of mine that resulted in my going flying. Sometimes when King took a nap in the porch, he would sleep on his back with all of his legs pointing upward. I couldn't help myself. I would quietly sneak up on him and sit down on the paws of his powerful hind legs. Then I would reach forward and tickle him in the hair under his ears. Invariably, he would wake up, sneeze (ing all over the place) and kick his powerful hind legs out. And into the air I would fly.
We had another game we both loved to play. When my folks' car was parked in the driveway, King and I would chase each other around it, kind of like hide-and-seek. We would each be on opposite sides of the car, and the object was to sneak up on the other and catch him by surprise. Since neither of us could see where the other was on the opposite side of the car, I used my ingenuity to get down on the ground and peek under the car to see where King's feet were. I thought I was so smart. But lo and behold, wouldn't you know it: King was bending down to peek under the car to see where I was. So much for catching him by surprise.
Whenever there was a deep and flooooofy, fresh snowfall, as was so often the case in a Minnesota winter, King loved to jump into the snow, dig a big hole, and put his head way down deep into that hole. What King was doing was melting the snow with his warm breath, and then drinking the water he had made. He would do this because the water in his water dish kept freezing from the cold air. After drinking the water from the snow he had melted, King loved to frolic in the snow, running, turning, and jumping in it to his heart's content. Since the snow was quite deep, King would kind of bounce into the air from point to point as he was running through the snow. Even though I did not join him in the snow, it was always such a joy to watch him play in it. Even now, 40 or so years later, I can still envision him playing so happily. And even now, it delights and warms my heart to remember, and to watch him all over again.
King loved life, and he found so many ways to have fun in so many situations. To King, the cold, snowy Minnesota winters were not an obstacle. To King, winter was just another occasion to enjoy and have fun, and always to share that joy with his family whom he loved so very much, and who loved him so very much!