I was six years old when my father brought Bimbo home. He was a tiny black and white fox terrier puppy, so small he could fit into my father’s overcoat pocket. Having a pet is fun, but it also requires work. My big brother, Alan, and I had the responsibility of feeding our puppy and giving him water every day. As Bimbo grew, bathing him was one of our jobs, and we were always just as wet as Bimbo before we were through. We loved our puppy and treated him like a member of the family.
In the four short years of Bimbo’s life, he had many experiences. One winter my brother had scarlet fever. In those days medicines were not as effective as they are now in controlling communicable diseases, so no one was allowed to leave the home during such illnesses. My father went to live with his parents for three weeks so he could continue his work. The rest of us, including Bimbo, were not supposed to leave the house.
A quarantine sign was placed in a window and no one came to visit but the doctor. Whenever Mother opened the door to let the doctor in, Bimbo would dart out. Then Mother or I had to chase him up the street and bring him back to his “prison” so he wouldn’t carry the disease to anyone. I don’t know who disliked the quarantine period most—me, my mother, or Bimbo.
Then one day in the spring, we found Bimbo stretched out in the backyard as though he were dead. Does he have scarlet fever? I wondered. On the way to see the veterinarian, I remember praying as hard as I could that Bimbo wouldn’t die. The veterinarian told us our dog had been poisoned and would have to stay in the hospital for several days. Later when we took Bimbo home, we gave him love and attention and continued to pray for him. Our prayers were answered and he did recover.
For several months the next summer, we stayed at our summer home in the mountains. Bimbo loved to go with us so he could run through the woods and chase chipmunks. One day he returned to the cabin with his tail between his legs. His entire face was filled with something that looked like long whiskers; they were porcupine quills. The quills were even inside his mouth. We lovingly wrapped him in a blanket and carried him to a neighboring cabin, where a doctor who treats people was staying. He carefully removed the quills. Again I prayed that our pet would recover without ill effects. We thought Bimbo had learned his lesson, but the very next day he found the porcupine again, and a second trip was made to our good neighbor, the doctor. After that, Bimbo stayed away from porcupines.
The more we cared for Bimbo, the more we loved him. He became one of my best friends. I was happy to have a pet to love, to care for, and to receive his love in return. No matter how I treated him, he always greeted me with a bark and a wagging tail. I learned from him how to be a true friend.
As I grew older and developed friendships in my neighborhood, I found I had to be a friend in order to have a friend. Just as it took time to care for Bimbo, it took time to show my friends I really loved them. Sometimes just listening to them was what they needed. A telephone call to invite them over to my home to play a game made them happy. I learned I had to do my part in order for friendship to grow.
At school there were many opportunities to be a good friend. I remember how hard it was when I was not chosen to be one of the first in the class on a baseball team or for some other activity. That experience reminded me that when I had a chance to choose, I should look for those who needed a turn. A good time to be friendly was when new students joined the class. I found that by helping them feel welcome and happy, I was happy too.
Now that I am Primary general president of the Church, I have had the opportunity to make many friends all over the world. When I visited you in Bolivia, I didn’t understand your Spanish words, but I felt your love for me. I also felt the love the leaders had for you, and your love for them also. In Japan my friends speak still another language, but that didn’t hinder them in showing how much they cared for me.
To love is an important part of the gospel. Our Savior, Jesus Christ, told each of us to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy might, mind, and strength … and thy neighbor as thyself. …” (D&C 59:5, 6.)
When we do what is right, we show our Heavenly Father that we love Him. If we do kind deeds, show concern, and treat others as we want to be treated, we are obeying His commandment.
I pray that each of you will express to others how much you care. Then through your actions, your teachers, family, friends, and pets will know how very much you love them.