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Groovy's Game

Thoroughbred Hero Dog

By Sherry Lowell-LewisPublished 12 months ago 8 min read


I suppose I should start with how we got him.

My son Ben lost his dearest friend because of a car crash. His friend, Brandon, was drunk. He drove the wrong way on the interstate and had a head-on collision.

Ben was heartbroken. For months, he did little. He was very sad. So many of Brandon's friends claimed they were his best friend. One day, just before the funeral, we were at his parents' house, just visiting, offering condolences back and forth. Brandon's mom suddenly turned to us and announced, "Everybody keeps saying they were Brandon's best friend. That's not true. Ben, you were his best friend. The best. I wanted you to know that we know the truth."

I have been to a few funerals in my life. That day was the hardest. Possibly because I saw what it was doing to my boy to lay his best friend down for eternal rest. Afterwards, several of Ben and Brandon's friends came to the wake. One of the young men poured out shots for them. They gave me one and started to toast to Brandon's memory. I took my glass, held it out in front of me and poured it out into the ground.

"This is what killed your friend, gentlemen. I do not toast to his memory with the poison that consumed him, that killed him and did harm to the elderly couple he hit with his big SUV. I'm sorry if that offends you."

Well, these young men were shocked by my unexpected, quiet fury. But Brandon had lived with us for a short time when he was arguing with his parents, as teenaged boys will do. His mom knew where he was and knew that I loved him. She never seemed cross with me for taking him in. I counseled him every night to make amends, which he finally did.

A couple of long months went by. Another good friend, Eric, took Ben for a ride to his aunt’s ranch for a cookout. They kept chickens and one of their dogs had puppies. The puppies loved the chickens. They would chase the chickens. Sometimes, they would run out into the street and be hit and killed. Ben did not like what he was seeing there. To him, it seemed like the family didn't care if the stupid puppies got hit. Ben kept trying to call them back from the street, but it wasn't working. Then, one of the puppies looked at Ben, ran across the yard, skidded to a stop in front of him and sat down, still wagging his tail.

Ben fell in love with that dog. Picked him up and cuddled him for a couple of hours. Then the aunt offered to sell him to Ben. But Ben was out of work and had no money. He has already formed an attachment to this four-month old pup. Depressed, he put the dog down and went to Eric’s car to wait. His broken heart was trying to break even more.

Eric found out what had happened and took the dog to Ben. When Ben came in the door with this ball of fur, I knew I could not interfere.

Naming the dog was easy for Ben. His best friend had a nickname, and so he named the pup for his friend. Groovy. I suggested “Groovy II” but Ben wasn’t having it. I vowed to train this dog. The next morning, I got the puppy (I mean, Groovy!) and got out some puppy treats.

"You will learn to behave, or I'll put you out!" I promised faintly. "Now, sit!" And I did my best to copy what I'd seen trainers do on TV.

Somehow, it worked! He looked from me to the treat and sat down. So I gave him a treat. I decided to risk failure and do another one. "Give me your paw," I commanded, totally stunned when he held up his little paw for me. This dog is a genius! "Beg for it, chiquito," speaking in Spanish felt familiar. That one took a minute, but in half an hour, he was doing four new tricks.

Good boy.

Ben was devoted to this dog. He rarely worked at a job for more than a week, boring easily, always with an idea to make it better and run it better. He'd get fired and get depressed. Groovy was therapy for Ben and it worked quite well. They spent all day and all night together, except for a few minutes with me, when I got home from work. Maybe he thought I had treats in my pocket, just for him. Maybe he loved me, because he knew I loved him.

Groovy was Ben’s dog, without question.

Until I got out the car keys. He could hear the jingle from the back yard and come crashing through the house to get to the front door before me. It was so cute, how much he loved to go for a ride. If I could take him, I would go. Of course, the best times were when Ben came along, too. Those times were the best.

We live in the desert southwest, so much of the time, it’s too hot to leave a pet in the car, even with the windows open. But if I knew it would be a quick stop, or if I would be in the car, too, then he would come with me. He was a mutt, but to us he was a thoroughbred hero dog.

Whenever I would run into a convenience store, when I came back out, Groovy would be sitting very straight and tall in the driver’s seat. As I approached the car, I would ask him if he was going to drive. Anyone in hearing range would smile, laugh or comment. More than once, as I was coming out of the store, someone coming in would glance over, see Groovy and do a double take. He looked so comfortable and self-assured, like he belonged there. The chauffeur. I wanted to get him a hat. When I got to the door, I would say, “Back seat,” and he would go into the back seat. Once I was in my seat, he could come to the passenger seat and sit or lay down. He was the best companion, even for a second stringer like me.

He was spoiled, but he was well-trained. He never ventured far from Ben’s side. We could take him outside and he would not run off, though the smells and sounds were tempting. It was as if he knew he got lucky with Ben and he wasn’t going to lose that. One time, he started to leave the yard to explore. I called out his name and he skidded to a stop, eyes on me. He stopped running away and came right back.

Good boy!

I remember when we took him to my in-laws when they irrigated their pecan trees. They had a German Shepherd named Rex. He was bigger and stronger, but Groovy still loved to play with him. When irrigation water was added to the mix, he was in heaven! Once, I yelled at him from the back porch to stop. He had found a gopher hole and captured a gopher! I watched him eat it, mud and all. He would run himself ragged and sleep very well. The cover picture, above, is of him, happily soaking in irrigation water. He was not allowed in the irrigation ditch, itself.

Good boy.

What is most special about Groovy is that he saved Ben’s life. When Groovy (Brandon) died, Ben felt helpless against the trials of life. If Groovy couldn’t handle it, how could he? Why should he?

Groovy went with us to Ruidoso, New Mexico, to visit Ben's big brother and his four kids. Groovy got along with all of them and those kids would run him ragged. I have a few pictures of him, laid out on the floor, passed out. But happy.

Groovy (the dog) provided Ben with a function, a reason to live and even be a little happy sometimes. Because that dog was very entertaining! He was curious and loving. He needed Ben's care and that saved Ben. Groovy loved him so much, Ben managed to open his heart, even if it was to a pet.

I loved him. Ben loved him. We lost him when he was only four. He developed a kidney infection that took him suddenly and quickly. Ben was devastated, and he had to struggle to get up every day. I was worried about him. He was just very, very sad. I decided to wait. Give it time for this wound to heal.

Then the pandemic hit. We were told we could travel within a one-hundred-mile radius. Ruidoso is 120 miles away, so I was very cautious about making the trip and decided to risk it. Ben was so unhappy, I thought it might help him.

There was a house fire and Colin and his family were thrown into chaos. They had been planning to move, so at least they had a place to stay. As a Grammy, I knew I had to go up there and hug each one of them, COVID be damned. Just before we took the trip, Colin called me that someone had found three puppies, living under a house. Did I want one?

I wanted two. Did Ben want one? He agreed to go up with me to look at these two dogs. The third was already adopted.

I end Groovy’s story with this. We adopted two females and Ben is in love again. One or the other sleeps with him, the other with me. They often switch during the night. Now we have Xena and Heidi, and we love them. But we both know it’s not quite the same. Groovy was special. I tell Ben that sometimes, moe than one "special" can come into your life.

Good boy, Groovy. Good boy.


About the Creator

Sherry Lowell-Lewis

Actor, writer, voice-over artist, teacher, author, mother and Grammy of 4. I've done a lot. I grew up in Bolivia, Laos and Taiwan. Married 25 years, widowed. Please read my stuff and leave a comment! Thanks.

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