I took a puppy named Thelma Lou fishing today. It was her first fishing trip. We fished at a secluded spot that I’ve been fishing at for a long time.
I’ve never told anyone where it is. Not even my wife.
To tell you the truth, it’s not really that great of a spot. Actually, it’s terrible for catching fish. But it’s quiet, and that counts for a lot in my book.
Little Thel and I hiked to the spot around lunchtime. She followed close behind my heels until she got tired. Then, she rode in my bait bucket.
Right away, I could tell fishing with Thelma Lou was a bad idea. This is because the only skills this seven-week-old puppy currently has are:
Plus, she doesn’t know how to sit still for more than eight seconds.
I finally gave up fishing and ate lunch. I’d brought a thermos of coffee, a sandwich, and a jar of peanut butter. The coffee and sandwich were for me. The peanut butter was for Thel.
My late dog loved peanut butter. I used to buy it by the case. You’ve never seen an animal go so crazy over peanut butter. I’ve still got dozens of unopened jars in the pantry.
Last night, I discovered Thel likes peanut butter too. She was whimpering at the table, so I dipped my finger into a jar and gave her a taste. She drew blood.
One taste turned into another taste. Then another. And another.
It was almost too much culinary delight for one puppy to bear. She got so excited that she made a Tootsie Roll on the kitchen floor.
So, back to fishing.
After lunch, Thel fell asleep in a peanut butter coma. While she snored, I fished. She only slept for twenty minutes. When she awoke, she started eating bait.
“Quit that,” I said.
I gave her more peanut butter to distract her.
As it happens, my fishing trip was less than a success. But I did manage to spend the day with a puppy.
Not a bad day, if you ask me.
I might not have caught anything, but I was able to whittle a stick—the same way old men used to do. I was also able to sing a few songs and hear my own voice bounce on the bay water. Thel tried to sing with me.
And I was privileged to see Thel spend her first few minutes in the bay water. She only made it up to her chest, but we’re getting there.
On our way back to the truck, Thel and I walked through the woods. We came upon a wooden cross poking from the ground. I spotted it in the distance. It was small, made from pine sticks fastened together with twine. There were no names written on it, no flowers.
There was only an elephant figurine next to it. I picked up the figurine. It was plastic. I don’t know why it was there. Maybe someone is missing a friend.
Well, I know what that feels like. I miss late friends too. I miss my father—who taught me to fish. I miss the dog who, before she died, loved peanut butter more than anything.
I removed my hat. I bowed my head. Thelma Lou sat beside me—which was a miracle. I didn’t know who we were honoring, but we were honoring them just the same.
When we finished, we wandered to the truck. Thel kept so close to my feet she almost broke my neck. She curled in my passenger seat and slept during the ride home.
She smells like bay water today, and there is no finer smell on a dog than wet.
Somewhere out there in the woods is a pine-stick cross with an elephant figurine nearby.
And one peanut butter jar.
I love you, Thelma Lou.