09/12/2012 06:11 pm ET Updated Nov 12, 2012

Remembering Big Guy

When I was 26 I had the perfect boyfriend. Big, strong, loving, caring, attentive, and always around. Happy to curl up on the bed next to me while I read a book. Okay, so he was an Airedale, is there something wrong with that? No downside at all as far as I was concerned.

Big Guy. That was his name. He walked off the street and in the door early one morning at a coffee company I owned with friends and collapsed on the floor. "What's wrong with you, big guy?" I asked, looking up from the cup of carefully handmade coffee I was pouring. This was back when Starbucks was just a local roaster up in Seattle and our customers in downtown Sacramento were willing to stand around for the five or 10 minutes it took to make a perfect couture cup just so.

He was lost. And so I found him. The vet thought he was around 2 years old, and that he'd been wandering for awhile. I hadn't had a dog before and didn't know they needed their own routines, so I just fit him into mine. I worked in a coffee house, so he worked in a coffee house. I worked in a bookstore, so he worked in a bookstore. I traveled, so he traveled. We went to Mexico, driving again and again to a little house on a Baja beach where he would roam. We drove up the coast, we drove down the coast. Beaches were a big deal to Big Guy.

The one time I thought I'd lost him, truly lost him, was on a Christmas Day. How had he managed to get out of my parents' house? Maybe someone left the gate open, maybe someone forgot to close a door; my folks were never big animal lovers and so not attuned to the idea that it was a good idea to keep them in one place. I drove around the neighborhood, I wandered around the park, I called his name over and over in a chant to try to bring him back. Nothing. Heartsick, I went home to the funky place in midtown a few miles away. And there, on the doorstep of the building, three traffic-filled miles from where he'd started, sat Big Guy. "What?" he seemed to shrug, "You thought I left?" Never again.

I didn't take him on a weekend caving trip though, and when I came back on a Sunday night all that was left of my sweet Airedale was a dark stain on my bedroom floor. My housemate had a party, and maybe he ate the wrong thing... she wasn't sure. But my parents had come over promptly and taken care of it all. No warning. No illness. No dog.

Big Guy has been gone for decades, but the position of big, strong, loving, caring, attentive and always around man is happily filled. I found him in a bookstore, so when he curls up next to me in bed while I read, he reads too.