By Guy Chapman – Navarro County Gazette

Last Friday, I celebrated a “Gotcha Day” with one of the best friends I’ve ever had.

If you’ve read my columns in the past, then your know of Frodo Waggins, my Yorkie mix who graces my cover photo for these articles. He’s also the the closest the Gazette has to a mascot on the site.

There was a time I didn’t think I’d be ready for him. Now I can’t imagine a day without him.

I… no, he found me in Las Vegas at a shelter called The Animal Foundation. Less than two weeks prior, I had lost my other sidekick, a six-year old cairn terrier named Junie. Junie was fine one day, got sick the next, and then passed day after that. It was sudden and devastating. I was grief-stricken by whatever unexplainable illness had claimed her short life. The void left in the house became a silent roar.

It was over a week before the Missus took me to the shelter to “just look.” I found one dog that caught my eye, but didn’t get along with Sophie, our other dog. But Sophie belonged more to the Missus, not me. I needed my own companion.

During our search, I walked past a row of kennels. A small black and brown dog with an long, oversized tail like a monkey constantly wagged at me and licked my hand as I looked down at him. I still couldn’t make a decision about a dog. It still felt “too soon,” but something about him stuck with me.

We returned to the shelter the next day, and again walked past the row of barking dogs. The black and brown terrier bolted out from an outdoor play area, and ran to the edge of his cage to stare at me.

I paused at the little dog, his eyes focused directly on me. We stared at each other for several minutes. Finally, with an impatient gesture I’ve well since come to recognize, he let out a singular loud “Arf” to let me know he was tired of me not seeing the obvious, I was being dense, and we needed to get this show on the road.

It was the first time I had laughed in two weeks. This bossy little creature was “done” with my indecisiveness and the shelter. When I took him to the play area, all he wanted to do was sit in my lap. I was told he had been brought in with a companion dog, who had already been adopted. I could relate to his losing someone close, so our becoming a team simply made sense.

And so, “Frodo Waggins” came home that weekend.

Frodo eventually grew into his tail, but not by much. He’s a pleaser, and a wannabe villain, who delights in stealing coffee (but can’t bear to be caught in the act). We’ve walked in the surf of the beach, explored the woods, and traveled the country together. He sits next to me on movie nights, ready for his expected share of the popcorn.

Sometimes, it’s hard to tell who adopted who, because every time I sit or lay down, he’s usually right on top of me. When I come home, he excitedly runs to find and show me his favorite toy… but he’ll never let me have it. By mid-afternoon, he insists on taking a nap with me, but he guards over me rather than sleeps. If I have insomnia at night, he checks on me to make sure I’m okay.

I’ve had him longer than Junie, by nearly three years. He’s a constant companion, and usually only a few feet away (though he likes resting on “Mom’s” foot when the Missus sits in her recliner). To celebrate his nine years, I took a photo of us to compare 2013 to today.

We’re both a little greyer now, though he’s still as active as ever. I still naturally hold him in the same way, in which he sometimes grumbles because I destroy his “big dog” fantasy, but he gets over it. He still studies me in the way he did from that first day, waiting for me to say something (preferably treat related). And he still lets me know if I’m not moving fast enough for him. But he’s patient when it comes to me. He knows I’ll figure it out these days.

There’s a sense of gratitude that comes from having a dog. In the scope of a lifetime, they live so much shorter a time than we do, but perhaps why they live so much fuller than us in some ways. They know what they want, and they focus on what they have with far less distraction. I’ve learned a lot about the depth of simplicity from him, and how to pay attention of what’s right in front of me.

There will come a day when my phone’s endless pictures of this little creature will become more invaluable than simply a part of daily routine, but I’m glad we can still revisit our first day together.

Even if we’re both a little greyer.

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