Stand By Me

This reminds me so much of Rusty
This reminds me so much of Rusty

By Judy Berman

Think back to your school days. If you’re still there, reach a little further back. How many of your close friends then are still a part of your life?

In Stephen King’s novella, “The Body” (the movie: “Stand By Me”), he noted that he never had any friends like the ones he did when he was 12. Friends that he was really tight with one summer became just “two more faces in the halls” later on.

“It happens sometimes. Friends come in and out of your life like busboys in a restaurant,” Richard Dreyfuss’ character says.

My closest friend, the one I could always count on whether I was having a great day or a real downer, came into my life when I was 8.

One snowy night in November, shortly after we’d moved from Pennsylvania to New York State, my Dad came home. He smiled and told me he had a surprise for me.

He pulled out a Cocker Spaniel puppy that he’d hidden under his coat. We named him Rusty for his color.

me with my brother, Hank, and Dad with Rusty
me with my brother, Hank, and Dad with Rusty

The puppy was proof-positive that Dad was a master diplomat. He knew my Mom was terrified of dogs ever since she was cornered by two dogs when she was younger. Somehow, he convinced her that Rusty was no threat and would be a real asset to our family.

He was right about the second part. Rusty, however, did turn out to be a formidable threat to anyone who he felt was a danger to our family. One night, when Dad was working late, a pushy salesman tried to gain entry into our home. When Mom went to close the door, he thrust his foot in so she couldn’t lock him out.

Rusty growled a warning that the salesman ignored. Then, the pup – now nearly a year old – bit the salesman. The salesman threatened to sue. Mom told him he was lucky the dog didn’t cause more damage, and the salesman left.

But most of our adventures were outside. Some of them were risky. I was a real tomboy then. My folks would have had more gray hairs if they knew of the time I rode a raft over a swampy area near our home. Rusty was with me, of course.

My trusty sidekick must have thought I knew what I was doing. If I fell in, I knew he would jump in after me to rescue me. Or, at least, that’s what I hoped would happen because I didn’t know how to swim.Rusty - my Cocker Spaniel

Over the years, Rusty was a constant in my life, someone I could count on. One rainy day, when I was 18, Rusty was missing. I searched frantically for him, fearing that something was wrong.

I was relieved when I found him outside near our home. My joy did not last for long. After 10 years, my best friend was ready to cross to the other side of the bridge. Maybe, some day, we’ll meet again.

This is a tribute to my first dog, Rusty, for International Friendship Month.


Movie trailer: “Stand By Me” (1986)


COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-15. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider,, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Main photo: Cocker Spaniel awaiting. Photo taken by Sebastian Oliva, licensed under Creative Commons by Bubamara.

Photo: me holding my baby brother, Hank; Dad and Rusty

Photo: Rusty – my first dog and trusty sidekick

  1. Judy, that’s such a lovely tribute to your dog. What a wonderful surprise it must have been when your father brought Rusty home. I really enjoyed “Stand By Me.” I think I’ve seen it a few times.

    1. Thank you, AA. Rusty sure was a surprise gift and a wonderful companion. The movie combined a coming-of-age story, some great friendships and a mystery. I loved it and the song by Ben E. King.

  2. A lump in my throat after that beautiful tribute to such a close friend, Judy. Having a dog that close is a gift, but we have to say goodbye far sooner than we’d like. I loved this post.

  3. I agree with the other readers, Judy: this is a beautiful tribute. But one of the details that jumped out at me from this post was the salesman sticking his foot in the door. Maybe our behavior really has improved, at least in some ways.

  4. Such short lives our animal friends have to spend with us. Too short. My dogs now are my first dogs (my mother was terrified of dogs, too) and I cannot imagine life without them. Your post makes me want to hug Bruno and Jigs right now but they’re asleep and can’t be bothered. 🙂

    1. Well, wake them up! Dang it! 🙂 I haven’t had a dog in a long time. So I shower my grand-puppy and our neighbors’ dogs with love and attention. I kid my husband that I know the neighborhood dogs’ names better than some of our neighbors. (That’s often referred to as “old-timer’s disease.”)

  5. I have a smile on my face, and a little tear of happiness on my cheek. But of course that always happens when I think of Judy Berman… : )

    A beautiful and heart-warming reflection, my friend.

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