Separated by war, Sparky was there when Arthur Stone came back
By Ron Schara
Host of ESPN2's
Backroads with Ron & Raven
With the holidays right around the corner, it won't be an easy time to be away from home.
Arthur Stone of Bloomington, Minn., can tell you about that.
Arthur is 83, but he remembers the heartache. Back in 1941, Stone left his home in Biwabik, Minn., as a new recruit en route to basic training with the U.S. Army.
War seemed possible and Stone figured Uncle Sam needed him. And he did. Stone fought on Iwo Jima.
Sixty years later, as Americans once again have been called to battle, starting in Afghanistan and perhaps escalating to the Middle East, Stone cherishes a special memory about being away from home.
“ He flew off the porch and ran up the sidewalk to me, almost knocked me down, licked my face and the tears just flowed off my face. ”
— Arthur Stone, on his reunion with Sparky
Being away, but not forgotten.
This is a story about Sparky, a dog that never forgot.
In the late 1930s, when Stone was a young man, Sparky was a constant companion. Many autumns were spent together, fetching grouse or ducks to put food on a family table to survive the Great Depression.
''We were buddies,'' Stone recalled.
Sparky was a devoted retriever, everything from fish to fowl, despite a rather seedy past, considering his parents weren't supposed to be together. But it happened and Sparky was born a mixed-breed puppy, half-Chesapeake retriever and half-springer spaniel.
''I guess you could call him a mongrel, but not to me,'' said Stone.
''He was a very good hunting dog. We used to go swimming together in Merritt Lake and if I went too far from shore or what the dog thought was too far, he would paw at me until I turned around. ''
Stone has many Sparky stories.
''I took a picture of Sparky in 1938 or 1939, I don't remember the year, but he's got a fish in his mouth that I caught. I remember being very concerned because the plug was still in the fish's mouth and I was hoping he wouldn't get hooked.''
In 1941, however, their fun together came to an end.
Stone volunteered for the draft, thinking his hitch in the Army would last a year.
He was wrong.
The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor; Hitler unleashed the German war machine. America was suddenly at war and Stone found it impossible to return home from the day he left.
''I didn't get home until October 1945,'' Stone said.
''When I returned to Biwabik I was about three houses away down the block when I saw Sparky sitting on the front porch. I gave a whistle and yelled, 'Here Sparky.'''
Four years and two months had passed since Sparky heard his buddy's voice. To Sparky, it must have seemed like yesterday.
''He flew off the porch and ran up the sidewalk to me, almost knocked me down, licked my face and the tears just flowed off my face,'' Stone said.
Sparky eventually passed away at the age of 14. Stone buried his buddy under a pine tree in Biwabik.
''It was something else. Sparky never forgot me.''