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A salute to the memories of a soldier and his dog

A salute to the memories of a soldier and his dog

Posted: Friday, November 14, 2008 9:18 pm
By: By JOHN BRANNON Messenger Staff Reporter

This week we observed Veterans Day 2008. This newspaper, as did other media, participated with stories appropriate to the occasion. It seems, therefore, proper that we close the week with a belated Veterans Day story of another kind: A soldier and his dog. Both have died. Perhaps this pause in print will serve as a salute to their memories. The soldier: Ronnie L. Bearden of Gadsden, Ala., who in November 2000 was killed in an auto accident. His dog: “Yogi,” described as a mixed breed similar to a beagle. Among Ronnie’s possessions he left behind was a copy of a letter he had written to the editor of the Gadsden newspaper. In it he tells all about Yogi. Ronnie’s brother, Glenn Bearden of Union City, a retired Goodyear associate, has a storehouse of memories. The dog, he said, was a stray that showed up at the Bearden house in Gadsden when Ronnie was about 8 years old. He describes it as “a little pup, ugliest dog you ever saw.” Glenn said Ronnie pleaded with their mother, Emily Bearden, to let him keep the animal. At last, as is the way of mothers, she gave in, but it would be his job, his responsibility, to take care of it. Ronnie said he would, and proved as good as his word. And now we hear from Ronnie himself, as recorded in the letter. “I named the dog ‘Yogi’ after my favorite cartoon character. Yogi grew up with me. He was my favorite pal and companion, my constant companion,” he writes. “If I was walking, riding my bike or just playing in the yard, Yogi was by my side. “I eventually grew up and went off to the U.S. Army. The longest and loneliest year of my life was spent in South Vietnam. My letters home would always end with, ‘and say Hi to Yogi for me.’” Finally came the day in December 1970 when Ronnie returned home from the war. His parents picked him up at the Atlanta airport. “We drove straight home,” the letter continues. “When I got out of the car and walked up the driveway, I stopped short. There walking on stiff arthritic legs, and with all his front teeth worn flat, was my old friend, Yogi. He gave me a look of recognition. I felt he was glad to see me. I rubbed his feeble head and gave him a hug. For me, he was part of the family. That evening, I fixed his supper and petted him.” The next morning, though, Ronnie’s mother had some bad news for him. “She told me that sometime during the night, Yogi had died.” And this brings to mind what Glenn Bearden said, what I’ve heard others say, and what I’ve said myself, which is this: Animals, particularly dogs, can sense things and hear things that humans cannot. We may refer to them as dumb animals, but they’re not as dumb as we may think they are. I have a Bassett hound at home that manipulates me, plays me like a piano. Even though I feed her well, she still acts like she is starving. So of course, I give the poor dear more rations. As it turns out, she is scamming me and the neighbor, too. So, no, they aren’t totally dumb. I quote from Ronnie’s letter one more time. “As the years have gone by, I sit and reflect. I can’t help but think that somehow it was meant for Yogi to live to see his young master return home,” he writes. “It is heart warming for me to think of my old companion in that respect, anyway.” Published in The Messenger 11.14.08

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