A mixed breed dog, Leon had a beautiful black coat that shined and spots of white that gleamed in the sun. He had magnificent touches of the purest pink around his cheeks and nose and on his underside. Leon self-identified as a boxer, but unlike traditional boxers, he had a long majestic black tail with a tiny bit of purest white on the tip that whipped anything in its wake. According to one kindly man Leon met at yard sale, he was definitely 7/8 boxer. Maybe.
Leon's birthplace is unknown, but at or around the end of his first year of life, his home was Young Williams Animal Shelter on Division Street in Knoxville. At that time he was going by the name Frost and had been at the shelter for nearly 28 days, meaning he was near the end of the road if not adopted. But God had other plans.
On January 2, 2006, a naive girl visited the shelter seeking a dog to adopt. She didn't then fully understand the magnitude of this decision or how her choice would alter the course of her life, her heart and her family forevermore.
In the small room where that first meeting took place, she was struck by the pup's big dark eyes, turned up "pig" nose and cheerful demeanor. As he pressed his full body weight against her, tail thumping like mad, it was clear this dog was the one.
Leon was forced to spend at least two additional days at the shelter for a procedure that was not pleasant, but mandatory as required by the adoption facility as a way to control the pet population.
On the day he was to be officially adopted (aka his 'gotcha day'), his new mom had to attend a new adoptee orientation class and fill out necessary paperwork before standing in a long line with other folks who were adopting pets. When Leon Otis Spears stepped through the doors into the front lobby of the shelter, there was a collective gasp as each person murmured "that's the cutest dog I've ever seen."
Leon was brought home for the first time in a 1997 Ford Explorer that proved to be the source of much joy in his life, both for trips around town, to the park and across the state to see his family.
Like a prisoner set free, Leon nee Frost blossomed in his new life like a flower turning its face toward the sun.
Several health-related set-backs had the potential to derail his happiness as he was stricken with the mange early on, but in the face of all obstacles, as he would for the next decade, Leon met each situation with joy, gratitude and dignity.
Important human companions in Leon's life include his former co-worker and best buddy Reid; dear friend and futon companion Mr. Henry and Aunt Terry who always moved aside in the good-natured way so Leon could get to Mr. Henry faster.
Leon's life was full of adventure, including one memorable boating excursion with his buddy Jordan's family. He traveled to exotic locales such as Cookeville, Tennessee, Murfreesboro, and Cleveland. Highlights of each trip included seeing cows alongside the road, stopping at drive-thru windows for special treats, and having the entire backseat of the car to himself for stretching out.
He was employed for a time in the University of Tennessee's Art Department but was let go for undisclosed reasons (there was talk of discrimination of the species variety).
Leon then flourished in his new role as HR Director of Screen Door Media where he supervised one employee, Mister Phillip.
One might say Leon and Mister Phillip had an adversarial relationship, but deep down each loved the other in a unique way. Some of Leon's fondest memories of Mister Phillip would probably be when he had to pick up his poop and keeping him company during horror movie marathons. Prior to his passing, Leon was very much anticipating his momma's upcoming wedding to Mister Phillip and had finally come to terms with the fact that he would have to share his king-sized bed with his new dad from hence forth.
Other special friends to enter Leon's life would include Bentley, a 12-year old rescued Yorkie, and Donatella, a box turtle with an approximate age of 40 years old.
In early 2014, Leon was diagnosed with degenerative myelopathy, a condition that causes nerve damage. Even after losing the use of both back legs, Leon's spirit was always strong and his positive attitude never wavered over the next year.
He left the world surrounded by his family and was laid to rest in the middle of a green pasture at his great-great grandparents' farm in Baxter, Tennessee.
Leon is survived by his Gramma Cindy and Grandpa Burton, an uncle Will and aunt Camille, Mister Phillip and his beloved Momma.
Said his momma, Kate Spears of Leon: "I never knew my heart could hold this much love. I thought I was just getting a dog. I ended up getting a precious companion who looked at me with more kindness, more adoration than I've ever experienced. He increased my capacity to give and receive love and for this, I will always be grateful."
Spears went on to say, "If I had a dollar for every time Leon and I were out in public and someone commented on how cute/sweet/adorable/great-looking he was, I'd be rich many times over. He spread joy everywhere he went. He lived a life of joy and it made the world a better place...or at least my world."
"Loss of a dear friend is devastating, but I'm so glad I never have to face the reality of a life without ever knowing Leon. I'll always carry him in my heart."
My Sweetest Friend
I'll be kind, if you'll be faithful
You be sweet and I'll be grateful
Cover me with kisses dear
Lighten up the atmosphere
Keep me warm inside our bed
I got dreams of you all through my head
Fortune teller said I'd be free
And that's the day you came to me
Come to me my sweetest friend
Can you feel my heart again
I'll take you back where you belong
And this will be our favorite song
Come to me with secrets bare
I'll love you more so don't be scared
When we're old and near the end
We'll go home and start again