KING, MY FIRST FRIEND
by Sam Younghans
Not long after I was born, September 13,
1929, we moved in with my Grandmother, who had a beautiful German
Shepard called “King.” King truly was just that, a king. He was
majestic. He looked like Strongheart, the first Movie dog. My
Grandmother had a large house at the end of the street surrounded by
woods. I spent many happy times there, playing in the woods with King.
My Mother told me about the many times
that king came to my protection when I was a baby. One story was about
the times she wheeled me in a baby buggy about five blocks to the
local grocery store. King, discreetly followed at a distance, although
he had been instructed to stay home. My Mother always parked the baby
carriage outside of the store while doing her shopping.
Grocery stores in those days
were small family owned businesses, usually with one door and two
large windows looking out on the sidewalk. She was never in the store
very long, but when she came out of the store, she would find King,
standing guard, growling at anyone who approached the carriage.
Sometimes there would be a crowd watching King. No one ever got close
As I grew older, I never
thought of King as anything special, he was just part of the family.
He was my buddy, I played games with him and talked to him and, in his
way, he talked to me.
One day, while walking to the
store with my Mother, we approached a house, where a large boxer
lived. His pastime was scaring and chasing people. When we were
opposite the boxer’s house, he came dashing from around the side of
the house, down the hill and on to the street, straight for us. He
never made the sidewalk. Like a bolt of lightening out of nowhere,
King appeared and hit that dog so hard, that it knocked him down and
king was on top of him. When the Boxer regained his feet, he used them
- he ran back up the hill to the protection of his house. King chased
him up the hill, and then we called him. He came over to us, looking a
little apologetic, seeing as how he didn’t stay home, but we gave him
love and gratitude, and he continued on to the store with us.
When we moved to our own home
in another town, King came with us. King was never on a chain or was
he ever penned up in a doghouse. At that time most people who had
dogs, let them run free. There weren’t so many frightened people as
there are now and most dogs weren’t mean. The neighborhood loved King.
One day, after living with us
for about a year, King disappeared. The first thought was that he
returned to visit my grandmother. To do this he would have to travel
five or six miles up the Allegheny River to the bridge, or swim
across, and then about ten miles to her home. That never happened, my
Grandmother never saw him. Coming home from school and not having King
waiting to greet me was a very sad affair. The whole neighborhood was
on the lookout for him. Almost a month had painfully passed with no
sign of King. The street we lived on was on a hill, we lived half way
up the hill. After school, I walked home different routes each day,
hoping to find King.
Then, one day, after nearly a
month, I was at the top of our street, walking down the hill towards
my home, when I saw something on the sidewalk next to the hedge that
bordered our lawn. As I neared our house, I could make out a ball of
fur lying on the sidewalk - it was King. I ran down the hill, yelling,
“King! King!” He raised his head and tried to get up, but he was in
such bad shape that he couldn’t rise. He looked terribly thin and his
fur was coated with mud. He was exhausted, he was close to the end of
his road. I knelt down beside him, gave him a big hug, he licked my
hand. I called my Mother, who helped me carry him into our yard.
My mother brought a pan of
water, which King slowly lapped up. We brought food out to him and I
sat on the ground next to him, stroking his fur. I stayed with him
until he gained enough strength to walk up on the porch to his rug. He
dropped down with a big sigh, as if to say, “Home at last.” I was
crying. You could tell he had been traveling, we had no idea what
happened to him, but he returned and that was all that mattered.
you, King; you introduced me to the wonderful world of animals, to
real beings, who give unconditional love. You taught me to communicate
with other animals and with life. I grew up with King, he lived to the
ripe old age of fourteen
Living on Miami Beach as an adventurer
and ladies man was not the place for a dog. Duchess was no ordinary
dog. I’m sorry that the details of her adoption escape me, but her
memory will always be with me.
Duchess was probably eight or ten
months old when we hooked up. My friends asked me what I was doing
with this mangy looking, scraggly dog. I don’t know why, but my
response was that she was going to turn into a beautiful wonderful
lady. Thus, she was named, Duchess.
I lived in a small servants house
behind the main house on a street north of forty-first street on Miami
Beach. Yes, Duchess was mangy, her fur was in tufts and she was
skinny. The first thing I did for her was to take her to a
veterinarian in Miami. The first thing th vet did was to take his
scaple and scrape a piece of skin off of her eye-brow. It was done
before I could stop him, and I was furious. He said he needed to make
tests to diagnose her problem. After some time in the waiting room, he
came in and told me that if I didn’t feel too strongly about the
dog, that I should get rid of her. If I chose to keep her, it was
going to cost me a whole lot of money to get her cured. Since all
animals were my brothers, so, therefor, I would never get ride of her.
My first feeling was to bash the vet in the mouth, but I held my
temper and told him, "Give me my Dog! I’ll take care of
Back on the beach, Duchess was treated
to slices of a small steak and given a bath in a product called
"Bathe-away." I apologized for her wound and told her that
she was going to be well, and that she would be beautiful. Early every
morning we went for a swim in the ocean. Slowly she began to get her
She traveled with me all of the time. I
dated lots of pretty woman on Miami Beach and Duchess was always
along. If she didn’t care for the woman she would squeeze in between
us in the front seat. One dancer that I was very attached to was also
Duchess’s friend. Duchess approved. I was a photographer at that
time and did the darkroom work for the photographers at the Deauville
Hotel. Duchess slept on a shelf over the developing trays while I
prepared the photos for the girls on the floor.
As time passed, Duchess did indeed
become beautiful. I had photo concessions in three night clubs on
Miami Beach and Duchess always accompanied me to the clubs. She was
always welcome in the clubs. All of the musicians were her pals. One
club was in the Roney Plaza Hotel across Collins Avenue from my
darkroom, which was in a small hotel on twenty-third street. We walked
to the corner and when the light changed, I'd say, "Okay
Duchess" and she would run ahead to the lower entrance and into
the club. The doorman always felt slighted because she never stopped
to say hello. By the time I got there she was sitting under the piano,
eating a treat from one of the waitresses. MORE OF THE STORY
COMING WHEN I GET TIME.
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