My first pal in this world was a boxer name Thumper; he was the Adored One of my father. I do not recall ever seeing my father show any emotion, except at the mention of his name. He was the pick of the litter that a champion wrestler, Sy Williams, had. Mr. Williams owned a local bar and grill which was only a couple of blocks from the office where my father worked, Case American, so my father had become friendly with Mr. Williams. It was one champion finding another champ, a top-notch pedigreed pup. When I was just a few months old, Thumper would accom-pany me around the backyard, picking up ripe peaches from off the ground, eating them until our skin itched and our tummies protested. We were true co-conspirators; he even allowed me to use his water bowl for wading purposes, and never shirked from my clumsy toddler efforts at affection. My folks were surprised that he didn’t knock me over or react aggressively towards my toddler ways, as he was just a young pup himself.
When I was studying clinical psychology in graduate school, I had to work on a genogram (a relational family tree) of family history, going back several generations. When I queried my father about his memories of my childhood, he asked, “Do you remember Thumper?” I answered I remembered the peaches, the water dish, and the itchy skin on the patio. My father had no other memories of me to share. Thumper was paramount.
Sadly, Thumper contracted a deadly form of mange while left in a kennel when my father was out of state. Despite repeated trips to the vet, Thumper did not recover. His health was going downhill quickly, and my father had to make the agonizing decision to have him put down. I did not know at the time it was the beginning of the end – for my father’s sense of place in the family, for our family unity, for my feeling of safety. My parents ultimately divorced and my brief interlude with family and a good pal ended forever. I wish, though, that I could thank Thumper for being so patient with me and giving me that time, short though it was. It was one precious connection to my father, one thing we shared: we both loved Thumper.
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