©Kim Taylor, 1998
Illustrations ©Edith Emerick, 1998
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Written by Kim Taylor, Illustrated by Edith Emerick (Gramma).
The dog barely stopped in time before tripping over its own feet. "Pardon me highness" he
panted, "I didn't see you there. I am following my teacher's instructions." "And what are
you learning" the Princess said. "I'm learning to fight" said the dog.
The Princess was shocked. "What kind of thing is that to teach a puppy, you should be
having fun not learning how to fight, and besides the kingdom is at peace." "Nevertheless"
said the dog, "I train" and with a bow he began running back and forth again. The Princess
continued on her ride and thought nothing more of the dog.
Several months later the Princess again rode by the same spot, and saw the same dog. Now he was no longer a puppy but a full grown dog, and a large one at that. In fact he was very large, very heavy and very very strong. The Princess could see that at a glance. The dog was lunging at small trees and tearing them with its teeth, each bite taking another piece of bark off the trunk. The ground was fairly covered with wood chips.
"Dog" she said, "are you still practicing?" The dog stopped in mid bite and bowed his head
at her. "Yes highness I am still practicing". "What is your name" she said. "Companion" said
the dog. "Companion?" said the Princess, "I would have thought Champion would be better
by the look of you". "Nevertheless" said the dog, "Companion is what my father named me."
"And what are you learning now" said the Princess. "Today my teacher says I must learn
how to rip out a throat with one bite highness." The Princess shuddered, thinking of those
sharp teeth, and rode on without further comment.
It was a year later that the Princess met the dog once more. He could no longer be called young. His coat was scarred and he walked with a slight limp, although he held his head high. He seemed to be looking out over the lake at something. As she approached the dog turned and bowed to her. "Greetings highness" he said. "Hello Companion" replied the Princess, "you are not training today?" "I train always" said the dog "that is all I have ever done." "But you must have fought as well" said the Princess, looking at his scars. "No", he said, "the scars you see are from my training." "What of your teacher, what does he have you doing today?" asked the Princess. "My teacher is now dead" said the dog, "I train alone, remembering what he taught me."
Not wanting to know what battle or fight the teacher had died in, the Princess rode on into
the forest, leaving the dog to look out over the lake.
That evening the princess was camped in a small clearing and was preparing to go to sleep when she heard a great roar and crash. The darkness became bright as day as lightning struck the trees close to the clearing. Within moments a fire had started which soon became a great blaze that surrounded the clearing. The Princess was trapped and did not know what to do, her horse had fled and all around her great walls of fire shot up into the sky. She truly thought she would never see her home again as the very ground at her feet began to smoke and the hot dry air began to hurt her chest.
Suddenly, as if out of nowhere a huge shape hit her, knocking her to the ground. It was
Companion, his massive body soaked with water. He pinned her to the forest floor, pressing
her into the moss and grass. When she could breath again, the Princess tried to get up but the
dog held her still. "Please lie quiet highness" he rumbled deep in his throat "the fire cannot
reach you now". The Princess realized that the fire was much worse than a moment ago, in
fact she could smell it burning the dog's hair and she could almost hear his skin crackle from
the heat, yet he never made a sound or moved a muscle. "You will die" she said, ... "you will
die" she whispered sadly. "Nevertheless, it is what I have learned" said the great dog simply.
When she reached the lake, the Princess was surprised to see a very old dog sitting there as if
waiting for her. Speaking respectfully she said "Grandfather, did you know a dog named
Companion?" "Yes" said the old dog, "he is my son". "And did you know his teacher" she said.
"Yes, he was a great fighter" said the old dog, "he died in this very lake, saving a young boy
from drowning". The old dog paused a moment looking at the young girl, then said "My son is
dead." The Princess looked down and replied "I'm sorry to say that is true, he died to save my
life." Now she raised her head and looked at the old dog, "I shall build a great memorial to
Companion and to his teacher on this spot so that all people shall know of their deeds."
The old dog stepped toward her and said softly "Granddaughter, I will tell you now what my
son would say to you. 'I am only a dog. I am nothing special. I am what I have learned, and
nothing more.' You must not build monuments to my son." With that the old dog turned and
walked away, leaving the Princess looking out over the lake, adding her tears to the water.