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By the time I was 8 years old, I did not ever remember being loved, held or hugged by anyone, not even one single time. But thatís just the way it was when you were discarded and locked away in a Jacksonville, Florida orphanage. I guess I thought that being loved or cared about really did not matter very much. I did not know that such a feeling even existed.

One day, when I was playing in the dirt pile out behind the boys' dormitory, I heard this strange noise coming from behind me. Immediately, I jumped up and spun around quickly, afraid I was in trouble with the matron as usual. When I stood up, I saw the most beautiful, kind and loving face looking directly at me.

The eyes of an angel stared only at me! My heart skipped a beat for the first time in my young life. I placed both of my hands over my cheeks and took in a deep breath. My eyes and mouth were open wide like saucers. I backed up slowly against the oak tree and waited to see what would happen next. She just stood there like a statute looking at me and did not say anything at all.

My eyes rolled and rolled, as I looked her up and down from head to toe. I noticed the beautiful brown and white coat she wore. After a minute or so, I slowly reached out and touched it. She opened her mouth, but then closed it again without making a sound. I quickly withdrew my hand, because I did not want to get into trouble. Then I placed it behind me to show her that I was sorry for touching her and that I wouldnít do it again. Still, she said nothing. I sat back down in the dirt pile and kept my eyes on my task.

Finally, she came over to where I was sitting and touched me gently on the face. Her hand was very warm and it felt good to be touched by something that did not want to hurt me for a change. I kept looking down, because I did not want to look her directly in the eye. You were not allowed to look anyone in the eye at the orphanage, because that was a sign of defying authority.

I could take it no longer; I threw my arms around her neck and hugged her as hard as I could, until she let me know that she really did like me by licking my face. That was the first and only dog we ever had at the orphanage and I had no idea where she came from. Later that day, we boys named her "Honey." She was a big, old, ugly-looking bird dog, who was brown and white. The orphans loved that dog and that dog loved all of us. It was absolutely wonderful.

About two weeks later, one of the boys came running to my room. He was crying his little eyes out and told me that Honey was run over by a car outside the orphanage gate. I ran downstairs as fast as I could and locked myself in the telephone room. Then I stood there against the locked door, breathing in and out as fast as I could. I could not come out, not even for supper; I stayed there and cried all night long.

The next day I could not even go out the front gate for fear of seeing Honey lying dead in the road, so I climbed over the orphanage fence to get to school. After school, Mother Winters, the head matron, called me to the office and told me to go with old Mack, the black grounds keeper, to get a wheelbarrow and pick Honey up out of the road. I will never forget that sight as long as I live; it was worse than horrible. Her insides were all over the place.

I will always remember the look on Honey's face as she lay there dead with her tongue hanging out. I knew that beautiful, old dog would never love me again. I stood there and cried the entire time as I tried not to smell the odor of death. Old Mack, who was a very kind old man, told me not to look at her. All by himself, he moved her into the wheelbarrow and picked up all the pieces. Then he took her to bury. I do not know where he buried her and I did not want to know.

Mother Winters never did like me very much and I really donít know why she did this to me. I always bought her a horse statue at Christmas. I bought it with the $2 that I got from the Jacksonville Kiwanis Club each holiday. I guess the presents really did no good.

There was never anyone to hold us or to tell us that everything was going to be all right. Our little hearts ripped to pieces, day after day and there was no one who cared. All that Mother Winters saw was a dead dog lying in the middle of the road and "a bunch of whining, crying little bastards."

Poor old Honey was just another thing that got in her way.... JUST LIKE US KIDS.

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