In the late summer of 1945, as the Second World War was finally coming to a close, LIFE magazine published a series of pictures by photographer Myron Davis—including the first one in this gallery, which has since become a classic—chronicling the fast friendship between a 12-year-old Iowan named Larry and his 18-month-old dog, Dunk.
Summer is the time [wrote LIFE] when Larry Jim Holm and Dunk can be together all day long. Larry is 12 years old and lives on a farm near Oskaloosa, Iowa. Dunk is 18 months old and is part spaniel, part collie. Sometimes there are chores to do but most of their time is for fun. Larry and Dunk know every foot of the 16-acre farm. They keep close tabs on the ripening blackberries, although Dunk really prefers field. mice. Sometimes they hunt gophers or dam the brook in the back lot. Sometimes they catch a turtle so Larry can carve his initials on it.
The best fun is fishing, when Dunk helps dig fat angleworms and goes off with Larry through the meadow, across the pasture (keeping away from the bull) and over the hill to the creek. They always jump into the creek for a swim. Then they go home for a quiet evening, most of it spent on the living room floor. “A guy’s almost an orphan without a dog,” says Larry.
Somehow we get the feeling that there are countless men, women, boys and girls everywhere—people who have a hard time imagining life without a furry friend close at hand—who know exactly what Larry’s talking about.
Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter @lizabethronk.