It’s been pretty much the same, ever since they brought me home from the big barn in Sedalia: sleep, eat, play and sleep. It’s the best life.

Being raised with my litter on the farm was fun. The farmer and his wife would let us pups out of the stall and we would run around the barn, and eventually grew big enough to go out in the field. One day, this family was out in the field, bending down, clapping their hands and trying to pick us all up. They spoke so sweetly to me, jogged around a bit and eventually picked me up. That was pretty much how we became a family—we all smelled good to each other, I guess. They came back a couple weeks later, carried me into the cab of the truck and took me home. My home in Conifer.

“I think I am slowly wearing him down. He’s tough, but trainable.”

Just like the farm, there were steep hills and pine trees, squirrels and birds, but no other dogs to play with. That didn’t matter much after a while; I found my best friend, and he loved me like the farmers did. At first he was pretty stern, putting me in a cage at night, but every morning he would get me out and follow me down the driveway and back. That’s probably one of my favorite times of the day, the morning walks. Running around, sniffing and searching, hunting and barking at the deer and squirrels. It was the best life. Eventually, he started bringing this plastic bird, throwing it all around, and I would have to go and get it for him. Guess he kinda made it a game. We did this for years, same ol’ routine, but you know I love that. I love when he puts those camera cards in his pocket to walk around the property so I can track every scent of every animal that snuck around at night. We head back to the house so he can look at the game trail camera photos of rabbits, mostly, and sometimes a bear or some elk.

Every morning to every night was comforting because he was there. Now that I’m old, he lets me jump on the couch next to him. I think I am slowly wearing him down. He’s tough, but trainable. I even have him sharing his after-dinner snack of popcorn and skittles. It’s the best life.

Of course there is the rest of the family. I like them too, especially when my best friend is not home. They pamper me, feed me extra snacks and let me sleep on their beds. The girl loves me so much that she has pictures of me in her room and tries to hold me like I’m a puppy or something. If I’m really tired I’ll let her cuddle me until my best friend comes home. He smells the best, sounds the best and is the most fun to be around. I think he feels the same way about me because he talks the sweetest to me. I’ve seen him around the family, the way he talks so serious to them, the pats on the back and light kisses on their cheeks. But with me, we wrestle with the rope, we play tag, he smiles and I bark—it’s a nightly routine that we both enjoy. It drives my mom crazy, the barking ya’ know, but he doesn’t seem to mind so I just keep doing it.

There’s this thing between a dog and his family, this connection without words. It’s a gift, I guess, that I can tell when my family is happy, when they are sad and when I need to cuddle up next to them. Being next to my best friend is my happy place.

Our best adventures have been out in the field, chasing birds. The early morning drives to the corn fields, everyone wearing their blaze orange and camo while sharing bites of homemade donuts. I enjoy the scurry through the stalks, the hunt for the fallen bird and the nap, at last, under the oak trees. We’ve braved the freezing cold in the pit during winter, waiting for the geese to fly overhead. On edge until the bang of the gun sounds, so I can jump out and grab the feathery fluff. I’ve chased them all: doves, quail, chuckers and even a porcupine—I really regret that last one! My best friend kept yelling at me to stop, but this fiery instinct drove me forward until I almost had him. Next thing you know my face is full of quills and all I feel is a painful heat pulsating through my head. It took a few hours and my best friend took care of me. That was probably the worst day.

As I look back over the years—I turned 91 just last week—I recognize how much we all have changed. I realize my best friend and I are a little greyer on the chin and a little slow to rise. We don’t hunt very often and when it’s really cold, we might not go on a walk. Sleeping has occupied the majority of my days and my dreams are filled with memories of the kids when they were little. We all played in the kiddie pool on those hot summer days—it was so cool and refreshing. I remember riding in the cab of the truck on road trips to Montana and South Dakota and tearing all the gift wrap off of presents on Christmas morning. I love all the memories I’ve shared with my family and especially my dad—he’s my best friend. I think he feels the same way about me.