June 20, 1988 – September 7, 2004
I want to tell you about Ming. Oh, I know, he was just a dog, a little animal not more than 10 inches high when he strutted along patrolling the neighborhood with his head held high. I was just a kid of 50 on that day in August of 1988 when we went to the breeder to look at the litter. The breeder kept touting his bigger and better conformed brother as the one we should choose. I was tempted to choose the better, bigger pup but there was something about the little guy. His pink tongue stuck out, he did not walk but rather pranced as he bounded across the play pen she kept the litter in and there was this intense look in his eye, as if he was deciding whether these humans were the kind he wanted to be associated with.
We went away to think about what the breeder had said and we decided to take the pup that she had said was the “better dog”. The next day we returned to complete the transaction. We gave her the check, she completed the paperwork so that we could register the pup with the AKC and we went out to the pen to get the new member of the family. When I reached out to pick up the puppy we had chosen he shied away from my outstretched hand. The little one ran over to be picked up and looked up at me. He knew and in that moment he explained to me that I had been chosen.
We had to choose a unique official kennel club name for the AKC. He was christened Shanghai’s Mister Wu. At home he was simply Mister Ming. The first night at home he romped and explored and scampered over from time to time to be petted. After a while he disappeared. The door had not been opened and he could not have escaped outside. After several minutes we found him, fast asleep and curled up in a souvenir sailor’s hat resting on the bottom shelf of a cart in the kitchen. Ming had found himself a bed.
That was the beginning of sixteen years of friendship in which it was quite unclear which of us was the caregiver and which was being cared for. He was almost a year old when I noticed his intent interest in the television news programs. I already knew that he understood and followed our conversations. Always after a highly interesting story he would look up to me with a look that asked for my opinion. I found myself trying to figure out what he was thinking. He would vocalize in a questioning tone and I would respond with a comment. I began thinking of him as my little man in a dog suit.
One day after breakfast I announced wearily that it was time to go to work. I put on my jacket, collected my brief case and went to the door. Mr. Ming stepped in front of me carrying his leash in his mouth. That is how it became routine that he would come to the office with me. He pitched right in soothing clients during our meetings concerning the most difficult emotional passages of life. He was my partner as well as my dearest friend. He became a fixture around the courthouse. Everybody knew him and everybody was his friend as he stopped to receive a pat and a smile.
In the last few weeks he had become frail. Walking had become a chore. He could no longer patrol the neighborhood with his daughter by his side. By last weekend he could no longer stand without losing his balance. On Monday evening that gallant tiny man in a dog suit found the strength for one last tour, marching with unsteady steps to the corner of the block and back with his head held up high and alert to everything around him.
On Tuesday morning that gallant heart gave out. He was held in the arms of his human mother. He looked at her then closed his eyes and went into that final sleep, He rests now on the farm, in the hickory grove just across the fence from the cemetery where my mother and father lie. I had no idea what a big hole such tiny dog could leave in a human heart. But then he was not a tiny dog. He was my friend when I believed that I had no other. He was the biggest dog in God’s creation. He was Mister Ming,
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