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Story Time

Happy birthday, honey!

A month or so ago a wayward puppy showed up on my doorstep. Well...that isn't entirely accurate. Actually, a woman showed up here at the newspaper office with a puppy in tow. She wanted to place a lost and found classified ad. Apparently, someone discarded the dog out on a back, country road. The lady was hoping someone would step forward and provide a home for the cute, little rascal.

I lost my toy fox terrier a couple of years back. Never replaced her, don't know why, considering I like having a dog around to warn me when visitors show up. My driveway, you see, snakes up 300 yards or so off a rural county road, between a grape vineyard. Approaching visitors can't easily be seen from my house until they're nearly at my back door. A pooch around the old homestead, however, gives me plenty of advance warning that someone is heading my way.

I was kind of taken with the fawn-colored pup that was brought into our office. She wasn't the whimpering, sniveling type. Wasn't over-affectionate. Not a barker, that was clear to see. Just content with lying her head in my lap when I picked her up.

Low-maintenance, yep, I surmised that much from the couple of minutes I interacted with her. My type of dog!

I quickly saved the good samaritan some money. Told the lady to keep her classified ad money, I'd take the docile beast home with me.

The only problem, I was going to have to sell my better half on this new acquisition. My wife, you see, is a cat person. Never has been much for dogs.

Driving home with the sleeping pooch curled up on one of my jackets in the back seat, the light bulb went on just before I arrived home. When I pulled up next to the house, the wife was back in the garden tending to the tomato plants. I greeted her warmly and with a look of "Boy, do I have a great surprise for you" on my face. I smugly told her that her "real" birthday present was in the car.

An easy sell, considering a couple of days prior I had basically "cheaped out" with the gift I gave her for turning 49.

She eagerly pulled off her mitts (or are they gloves when you're working in a garden?) and looked wide-eyed through the window of my rig searching for her extra gift. I don't want to say my wife's face dropped a country mile when she spotted the sleeping hair ball, but the first words she muttered were, "What's that?"

I've never been a mind reader, but that afternoon I was clearly locked into ESP. It was like one of those comic character bubbles instantly appeared over her head, with the words inside reading, "You gotta be kidding me."

Undeterred, I snapped the door open, grabbed her gift and shoved the still sleeping pup into my wife's hands. "She's all yours," I fondly said.

The mutt (and she's all that) couldn't have been more locked in to what was happening. Almost purring like a kitten, she snuggled deep into the hesitant embrace my wife had reluctantly thrown around this newcomer. "See, she likes you," I said. The pup, almost on cue, lazily opened an eye, softly licked a couple of my wife's fingers and rolled back into a deep sleep.

The rest is history. Mattie, to which she now answers, has become part of the family. And, yes, my wife seems to enjoy her company as much as I do.

We both understand there will be growing pains. Chewed slippers, occasional accidents on the carpet until Mattie is fully house trained, things of that nature.

What neither of us understand, however, is how someone could have driven this 10-week-old puppy out into the countryside, and dumped her alongside the roadway, leaving her to fend for herself.

This type of thing happens way too often around these parts. Pet owners won't spend the money to get their dogs neutered or spayed, instead allowing their pets to have litter after litter. That's fine, I guess, for purebreds, since pups of true blood are often snapped up by families looking for a new pet. But for hounds like Mattie, there aren't enough homes out there for all of them.

It's sad. Because these animals, these mutts, are just as giving and just as loveable and just as loyal as any purebred.

The only thing I can hope for is that the person who discarded Mattie appears on my doorstep in the dark of night about a year from now. My ESP tells me that Mattie, once she develops all of her protective instincts, won't react kindly to a such a visit.

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