“CHAMP” THE BEAGLE-A YOUNG BOY FORCED TO GIVE UP HIS BELOVED COMPANION

As a Document Examiner and Handwriting Expert who has hundreds of court appearances under my belt, and who has seen many a loser trudge from the court room(and thank God they were not my clients that I know of)), I have realized the losing party is most likely the loser because they did not tell the truth, but more importantly it is what they give up when they lose and it is far worse than money they paid to the lawyer, which can be substantially, though it is like putting sand into a deep wound, especially if they thought the loss was unjust as most losers do.

It is the mental and emotional impact of what was lost that can have the most devastating effect, long after the financial losses have been recouped.

How do you put a price on the loss of a home that you have lived in for many years and shared many wonderful memories, because of a downturn in the economy or a devastating injury or illness that stopped you from working? Or loss of a spouse. Or the loss of a child in a custody battle or the termination of a marriage that once held great hope.

It is hard enough for us as adults to cope with these losses but think of the effect on the lives of children entangled in these hopeless situations and powerless to do anything to protect themselves from the deep and lasting pain that may scar them for life unless intervention comes quickly.

Such is my story, when at age 13, my parents finally divorced and I had to move from our home to an apartment.  I say finally because we were forced to move not just once, but SEVEN times because my drunken and abusive father spent the money on anything but what he should have–booze, gambling, women. And not only were we forced to give up our home all those times, not to mention the mental and emotional scars that went with being uprooted under emotionally wrenching conditions.

This story is not about my father though. That is for another time-my memoirs perhaps. The long and short of it though can be summarized by words I overheard my father say to a friend of how he had to lay on the beach at Anzio during the war and had to play dead while Germans walked among the bodies sticking them with bayonets to make sure they were dead. Of being pinned on the beach for three months and not knowing whether the next rocket shell would kill everyone within 30 yards as he watched friends being blown to pieces. Or having to endure hand to hand combat until he was blown out of his fox hole and suffered a broken back and was taken to a field hospital. I remember looking at his scar as a kid. It was shaped like a crucifix. The poor man went crazy. That doesn’t excuse his behavior but it DOES explain it. Some years ago a friend gave me a book on Anzio. All I could do was cry and as the tears streamed down my face,  and say to myself: “You poor man”, speaking of my father.

In later years, I had been estranged from my father until I learned he was dying of cancer.

My wife asked what I was going to do. In the space of a week, two TV shows I liked at the time–“Hill Street Blues” and “St Elsewhere” played out the story: Son estranged from father forgives–Son estranged does not.

I decided to see him. Everyone said he kept looking at the door. He was waiting for ME.He had taken me to my first Phillies game at age 8(38 years a season ticket holder and my 50th consecutive opening day last year)Bought me my first camera at age 12(photography is a passion)

I said to him: “Dad you took away my childhood, but you gave me a precious gift-the gift of life. I would not be here if not for you. I love you. I forgive you” He died peacefully in his sleep that night.

But no, this story is not about my father, but about “Champ The Beagle” and ME.

When I was a very young boy, my mom got a puppy we name Champ, mostly as a companion for me because my sister was too young and my brother had left home and my mother was afraid of dogs, having been bitten as a child. Champ was MY DOG. and constant companion who comforted me when I was taunted and teased for my coke bottle glasses and very large head from being born with hydrocephalus. Champ was ALWAYS there to give me unconditional love when no one else would or could-my mother fending off blows from my father who was mean to the dog.

But then came the day, when my parents divorced and we had to move yet again and get an apartment. We had to give up Champ the Beagle. I was crushed and cried endlessly for days and days. My mother assured me that they would bring champ to a farm some miles away and he would spend his time happily chasing rabbits. Somehow that failed to assuage my sadness as the weeks went by  before our move. I withdrew into a fantasy world.

Then one night as we came home from doing errands, right before the move.  To our utter shock who comes prancing down the driveway, ferociously wagging his tail and licking me all over the face, but none other than Champ the Beagle.  He had somehow gotten free from the farm, many miles away and found his way “home”. to ME  And, make no mistake, it was ME he returned for. The power of love can not be matched.

But soon after those unbridled moments of joy, I soon realized that I would have to give up Champ yet again. It plunged me into even deeper sadness. I wish I could tell you that we gave Champ to someone nearby so we could visit but I never saw Champ again. I lost my precious companion, not once but twice. Can you imagine the grief and loss I had as a helpless child?. I asked my mom if Champ would be OK and she lied to me. I later overheard her talking to my aunt and telling her Champ would “pine” away, which I later learned meant that he would die of a broken heart which is what I felt like doing when I heard that.  I now understand why the song “Helpless” by Crosby Stills and Nash was a favorite song in college. For years, I was distressed at the thought of what the poor dog must have felt at at being abandoned. All he did was love me unconditionally. I still feel sad to this day even though it has been over 50 years. The tears still come to my eyes as I relay this to you.

But to honor the memory of Champ, I recently wrote a poem for him.

“A FRIEND LIKE NO OTHER”

“When I was young, I had a friend, as dear as friends could be

He was always there at my side and took good care of me

He gave me comfort in times of stress like no tranquilizer could

He was full of love and kindness and all things that were good

But then there came the awful day when we were forced to part

The pain that I was forced to bear was like a dagger through my heart

The loneliness and grief I felt could not be put in words

The sounds he made that thrilled my heart would nevermore be heard

But such is life when the love you feel is for your precious dog

Their passing is so overwhelming it leaves you in a fog

But solace comes when you know their spirit is now free

and there’s comfort in the knowing he’s still in love with me 

 

 

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