As a young boy, I had a most wonderful companion. Poocher was his name. He had a dappled coat of black and gray and white, the result of an unintentional breeding of a Springer Spaniel and a Dalmatian. I grew up in a rural area, with farms and fields of what would eventually become Christmas trees. Large tracts of Scotch, red and white pine embraced by sprawling fingers of mixed hardwoods and sumac at the edge of abandoned pastures and apple orchards.

This was our playground. I climbed trees and forded little creeks and wandered into the darkest parts of the woodlands as though I were the first to discover them. Worrying about getting lost never occurred to me. At my command, “Poocher, home,” he would dart off and I knew he was going in the right direction.

If ever I met with a dangerous animal or person, I knew my companion would protect me. He already had a history of going after…

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