That was never more true than when my ex-wife asked for a separation in June 2006. This was just weeks before we were to drive out of Alaska together to make our way to my next assignment at the Pentagon. So when I drove out of Anchorage, it was just Kenin and me in the truck. He was my copilot for the drive from Alaska to Virginia, including stops in Vancouver and Michigan (like an AF copilot, he wasn't much help with figuring out where we were going). I have some great pictures of him standing on the back seat looking out the window. Our first extended stop was in Vancouver to visit my brother John. All three of us enjoyed the few days we had together. From there we made the cross-country drive to see my mom and other brother David in Michigan. Although it would have been nice if he had taken his turn behind the wheel, he still makes a great traveling companion. We had a great visit in Michigan. Kenin loves running up the stairs to my mom's condo. After a week in Michigan, it was time to drive to Virginia and finish our 5,000-mile odyssey.
The first year or so in Virginia was a very difficult time in my life. The future of my marriage was very uncertain. I had a decent apartment, but it was very lonely. I received a lot of support from my family, especially my mom. However, they of course couldn't be there in Virginia with me. I don't know if I could have handled coming back to the apartment day after day if Kenin wasn't there to enthusiastically greet me everytime. There is a dog park just a 10-minute walk from the apartment. We went there often, although I should have taken him more than I did. We also went on many hikes. We went to almost every park in Northern Virginia that had a trail and even out west to the Shenandoah Valley. I'll treasure those memories for the rest of my life. I give my mom and Kenin credit for getting me through that time.
When I thought I might be deploying, my main concern was what to do with Kenin. Because of how important he is to me, I wouldn't leave him with just anybody. I asked my mom who she thought would be willing to take him. She suggested Mark and Teresa. Mark's family lived next to mine when we were growing up, so we've known each other our whole lives. Our families remain very close. Teresa didn't hesitate to say yes when my mom asked her. At that time I thought I was going to be gone for just 6 months. When I found out it would be a year, I called Teresa and again she said yes without hesitating. God's hand was obviously on this decision because I could not have found a better family to leave him with. Mark and Teresa send me updates on how he is doing, my mom tells me how well he is being taken care of, and even Jenny, Mark's sister, has visited him and told me how happy he is. I am very grateful that he is with such a loving family.
Other than when I first dropped him off at Mark and Teresa's house, I haven't really felt like I am missing him. Even when I received updates on him, it didn't affect me much. However, when Jenny sent me pictures of her and Mark and Teresa's kids playing with Kenin, then I missed him badly. I especially felt his absence when I saw this picture.
That is such a classic look for him and brings back such great memories. For a while I had the picture set as my computer's wallpaper. I would "pet" him before shutting down my computer for the night. I told Jenny not to feel bad that the picture made me sad because I love it and am glad she sent it. So now I think about him more and I still miss him, but it is okay because I know he is doing well.