New Castle News

Josh Drespling

April 21, 2012

Josh Drespling: A boy's best friend remembered

NEW CASTLE — I used to have a dog. He was a good dog. A very good dog, in fact. His name was Pete. He was a pure bred Brittany Spaniel, with AKC papers and came from a long line of great hunting and show dogs. He was white and uniformly marked with various brown spots, which I guess is desirable in most breeds of dogs. He also had cute, floppy ears and a cropped tail.

I would have to estimate that I was 11 or 12 years old when I got him. He was my first dog and quickly became my constant companion. He would follow my brother and I around the woods and on our various biking adventures. He would accompany us on our many fishing trips and often made us feel safer when we were off alone in some forgotten spot of the deep woods behind our house or so far down stream that things were no longer comfortable and familiar.

One summer I recall my dad and I taking a fishing expedition to the Slippery Rock Creek near Kennedy Mills. This was a usual occurrence and seemed to happen almost weekly, but this time we brought Pete along. He loved the ride as much as the fishing and when we caught something (we always did) he loved chasing the fish as it flopped and flailed around, trying to get back to the water.  

We worked our way downstream to one of the huge, smooth rocks at the water's edge. We had our poles and buckets and, of course, we had caught our own bait in our secret little stream before heading to the creek. Dad was baiting his hook as Pete and I sat on the rock waiting for our turn. Dad had the mini pinned between his thumb and index finger of one hand and the hook between the the same fingers on the other hand.

Then, something happened! As he was about to plunge the razor-sharp end of the hook into the mini, Pete saw something that interested him. He took off across the rock, between where my dad had laid his pole and the precision crafted hook. The problem with this is that a thin strand of nearly invisible fishing line was strung across his path. As he lurched forward, I heard my dad scream. Pete's paws tangled in the line and the hook imbedded itself deep in my father's thumb. As my dad yelled, the point of the hook protruded from the opposite side of my his finger. His agony only served to confuse Pete and make him scamper about on the rock, further tangling his feet and amplifying my father’s pain and the tension on the line. Each move Pete made radiated through the line into my dad's thumb.

Needless to say, our fishing trip was cut short that day. You could almost see the guilt in Pete's eyes as we loaded up our gear in the truck. I know he felt bad, but not nearly as bad as my dad's thumb had to be hurting.

Late that summer we had been outside playing with Pete in the yard and surrounding area and Mom called us in for dinner. As we were finishing up our dinner, the phone rang. It was a neighborhood friend of ours named Bobby.  He said, “I think I saw Pete on Lakewood Road.” He paused. “I think he got hit by a car.”  

Silence. My mind raced and my eyes welled.

“I think he's dead,” Bobby said.

I don’t remember hanging up the phone or speaking to anyone. I only remember frantically climbing into my dad's truck and the small eternity that it took my dad to drive down our driveway and up the road.  

We pulled off to the side of the road at the spot where Bobby had said Pete was. A small crowd of neighbors had begun to gather to see what the commotion was. As I exited the truck, I caught a glimpse of white peaking from behind the blades of tall grass at the roadside. I drew closer, hoping and praying that it wasn't true. But there was Pete, laying motionless in the weeds. “Pete! Pete!” I muttered through my gush of tears. I couldn't bear to look. I leaned against the truck, staring at the ground.

My dad went over, put his arms under Pete's lifeless body, gently scooped him up, and placed him in the back of the aging pickup truck as I climbed back into the cab of the truck without a word. I heard the tailgate slam closed behind me and I turned around to stare at my friend and loyal companion through the dirty glass. With my face pressed against the rear window and tears streaming down my cheeks, we drove back home silently.

Once we arrived home, my dad quickly grabbed a shovel and had us follow him into the woods where Pete and I had spent countless hour playing. He made his way directly to a big, old, oak tree and started digging.

I stood there sobbing, shaking, and crying uncontrollably while Dad prepared the final resting place for my friend. Once the hole was complete, he lowered Pete's wilted body down into the hole and handed me the shovel. Crying like a babe, I grasped the shovel and laid the first fateful pieces of earth on top of him, returning him to the earth and forever putting a period at the end of our time together.


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Josh Drespling
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