One after­noon, when we returned home, we found we had a new mem­ber in the Adams house­hold. A fur­ry black pup­py with bright eyes met us at the door and wagged his tail so hard it near­ly pulled him off his feet. We named him Black­ie. It was love at first sight and I imme­di­ate­ly bond­ed with that dog. I’m sure my broth­ers and sis­ters would lay claim to him too but I always felt he was mine. Black­ie was the only dog we ever had and I still miss him. Overnight, he grew into a stur­dy good-sized dog that prob­a­bly out weighed me by fif­teen pounds. He was a friend­ly dog- fear­less, kind, and obe­di­ent when he felt like it, any­way. He was a cross between a lab and some­thing. His coat was long, coal-black and shim­mered in ultra­ma­rine hues. He was as hand­some as a dog could be.

Black­ie was a loy­al com­pan­ion and we shared many adven­tures togeth­er dis­cov­er­ing the new world. With my broth­er Joe, my best friend Wayne, and occa­sion­al­ly the Tay­lor twins, we set out to explore the deep woods in every direc­tion as we dis­cov­ered the trea­sures of nature and his­to­ry in our jour­neys. Along the way we encoun­tered many a wild beast and poi­so­nous snakes.

Black­ie wasn’t per­fect because he was a free spir­it. He didn’t wear a leash, and like my sib­lings, wasn’t watched over as care­ful­ly as he should have been. He would roam occa­sion­al­ly, dis­ap­pear­ing for a day or two then show up bark­ing at the back door, hun­gry and ready for the smoth­er­ing atten­tion we lav­ished upon him. Quite often, when he returned from a night­ly roam, he would smell to high heav­en, actu­al­ly more like hell; it was awful. We’d fill the tub upstairs and scrub him with a sham­poo and dry him off. After­wards his fur would puff out into a wavy mass and his girth would dou­ble in size. The indoor bathing was banned even­tu­al­ly because it ruined too many tow­els. You could not get the stink out of them. So we washed and hosed him off out­side after that and he air-dried before he was let back into the house. I dis­cov­ered on one of our wood­land treks why he smelled so bad. If Black­ie came upon some­thing that real­ly reeked, whether it was the rot­ting remains of an ani­mal or an ample pile of its drop­pings, he would prompt­ly roll into it and become one with the stink. That was pret­ty gross.

I won­dered if Black­ie was part wolf. Maybe he was ren­dezvous­ing with a roam­ing pack of wolves deep in the for­est when he dis­ap­peared into the night. If he did, he had to be the leader of the pack, like Buck, in The Call of the Wild. Maybe there was a she- wolf and baby Black­ies out there some­where. He was tough and would nev­er back down from anoth­er dog or take the oppor­tu­ni­ty to hump a clue­less bitch whether she was in heat or not.

Black­ie was a hunter-preda­tor and aug­ment­ed the dry dog food we fed him with fresh game when he could catch it. (I sam­pled his bland dog food once to see what it tast­ed like, so I can’t blame him there.) If any crea­ture dared showed its fur­ry lit­tle face, he was off in swift pur­suit. Man, he was fast and could run down a rab­bit if it zigzagged into his path dur­ing the fran­tic chase. He would quick­ly dis­patch it with a vio­lent head­shake and car­ry it away to eat it in pri­vate, or feed the lit­tle Black­ies back in his wolf den. Black­ie was at the top of the food chain and didn’t hes­i­tate to prove it.

He spot­ted a bob­cat one day cross­ing an open patch in the woods, his turf, and was off in the blink of an eye, cor­ner­ing it in a huge bush at the base of a rocky crag. That bobcat’s angry howl was spine tin­gling as it bal­anced itself above on sway­ing branch­es ready to tum­ble down at any moment. Black­ie was under it, bark­ing, ready to fight. My broth­er Joe reck­less­ly … or brave­ly … depend­ing on your point of view, went into the bush and dragged Black­ie out by the tail. They were both lucky they weren’t torn to bits.

I saved him one time myself…

We were at the creek behind Tim­my and Tommy’s in the mid­dle of win­ter. It was so cold that the run­ning waters of the creek’s sur­face froze rock-sol­id. I test­ed it cau­tious­ly, grasp­ing onto a long branch held out by the twins, tak­ing a few steps out to see if it held my weight. Black­ie fol­lowed and walked passed me, way out onto the ice as we held our breath. Not a crack to be heard. It was sol­id… but not for long.

After dares to walk across and touch the oth­er side, we ran across the crunchy snow-cov­ered patch­es and slid across the slick spots to see who could go the far­thest. We threw stones that pinged off the icy gray sur­face. As the size and weight of the pro­jec­tiles increased, so did the sounds they cre­at­ed upon impact. When the rocks were around foot­ball-size in pro­por­tion, the ice groaned in con­cus­sive thuds that echoed in res­o­nant shud­ders below the sur­face. We cracked the ice final­ly and were pry­ing up even larg­er stone from the rock face on the far side at a fren­zied pace. Soon we were hurl­ing down big boul­der-sized chunks that explod­ed into the ice, leav­ing crater-size holes and expos­ing dark indi­go tor­rents of water in the gaps. Some of the holes were five feet across after bomb­ing the same spots mul­ti­ple times.

While assess­ing the dam­age we inflict­ed, the ice sud­den­ly col­lapsed beneath Black­ie and he fell through, dis­ap­pear­ing under the ice. Thank God we made so many holes into the creek, because he popped up after a heart-stop­ping eter­ni­ty twen­ty yards down in anoth­er gap in the ice. He was gasp­ing as his legs pawed fran­ti­cal­ly at the ice edge, des­per­ate­ly cling­ing to it as the water pulled his low­er half under. But the ice was too slip­pery and the water too swift to climb out. I crawled over on my bel­ly and grabbed his neck and pulled him up, enough so, that he could escape from what would have been a cer­tain death had he gone under again. That was the last hole in the ice.