lawrence thornton   Jake the Crusader  
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  Jake ran into our lives one summer night, a yellow form elegant as a Brancusi sculpture, bright-eyed, nervous and lost. Since then, he's earned merit badges for racing full-tilt around the yard, hoping I'll let him throw a body block on me; putting on his own collar; demanding to be chased before he eats his nightly biscuit; harassing mail carriers, UPS drivers and missionaries bearing promises of salvation.

His biological heritage is indeterminate, though somewhere along the line a German Shepherd contributed to his family's genetic mix. On the other hand, his spiritual heritage is precise, traceable to memorial bronze of knights in full armor whose faithful companions lie at their feet: Jake is a Crusader dog.

His loyalty is evident every moment we spend together, beginning with an hour's walk in the morning during which we commune about many things, exchange ideas (often about writing), or just take in the lay of land. In the evening we go out again, this time with Toni, an end-of-the-day amble during which the three of us digest what has happened since morning. There's an intense pleasure in our companionship, a shared knowledge that we love each other and would willingly stand in the breech if the Saracens attacked. It's an ennobling feeling that puts in touch with what's best about being humans and dogs.

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Read an excerpt from Lawrence Thornton's forthcoming novel, Tales from the Blue Archives.
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Copyright © 1997 Lawrence Thorton.