CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- I sat and watched him die. From the time he was diagnosed with cancer, we had been dreading this moment. He'd been fearless to the end, but finally succumbed. Reflecting back, it occurred to me that his arrival into our lives had been no less dramatic.
It had been a typically dreary Sunday in March 2005 when my wife Debbie asked, "Did you see the dog in the paper today?"
"The one where the owner had to give him up because she had to go into a nursing home and couldn't keep him. It's so sad."
I said I didn't read shelter listings. We already had two dogs. Later that day, I was watching TV when Debbie stopped and said, "I guess we're not going to do anything about that dog?"
"What dog?" I'd already forgotten the earlier conversation.
"You're right. It's dumb. Never mind."
An hour later we were at the shelter. Nick, a half-crippled 5-year-old beagle/Jack Russell terrier mix, rolled his big brown eyes lovingly whenever Debbie spoke, but for me, offered a look that was clearly willful. I'd brought along our border collie, fully expecting the two not to get along, figuring that would end to nonsense. They met nose to nose, sniffed and then ignored one another.
"Idiot," I grumbled to the border collie.
"How does he do with cats," I asked, remembering we had a cat at home.
The shelter attendant didn't know, so we took him to the cat room to see. The dog just hung his head.
"I guess he gets along OK with cats," my wife said.
But as we exited the room, I caught another sideways glance from the dog, and maybe a wink. The die was cast. Nick was going home with us.
The instant our new dog entered our home, he spied our cat sleeping under a table and exploded in chase, racing through the house with the other dogs in hot pursuit. We heard a crash. With the cat dispatched, Nick marched back through the room, stopping just long enough to take an enormous dump on the rug before heading to the food bowls to polish off every remaining crumb.