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We've always been pretty lucky with our dogs.

Our first dog, which Mrs. Content Guy gave me long before she was Mrs. Content Guy, was a present for my birthday in 1980. I was 26. It was a memorable day for lots of reasons. Ronald Reagan was elected president that day. My then-girlfriend gave me a watch (a Seiko that I still own and wear), and a golden retriever-lab mix that we called Kipling.

Kipling was a sweetheart of a dog. About a year after we got her, she was hit by a car and ended up losing one of her front legs. Somehow, it only made her sweeter, and she lived a long time - amazingly mobile and agile for a three-legged dog - and was a member of the family in that way that only a great dog can be.

We currently have two dogs at home. One, a purebred yellow lab, is Buffett ... she's more than 11 years old now, and as I write this, she's curled up around the base of my chair, snoring lightly and occasionally having a dream in which her legs start to move faster and faster, just like a puppy's. (I can relate.) One of her unusual qualities is that she hates water, and doesn't even like to go out in the rain - even though that's one of the things for which labs are bred. Her idea of a big evening is a good meal, and then to sleep in front of the fire. A dog after my own heart.

Our other canine in residence is Parker, who is my son Brian's dog. (The dog's name tells you I raised Brian right.) Parker is a rescue dog, part yellow lab and maybe part beagle and probably something else; no matter how much we love her, there always will be something unknown in her past that makes her just a little bit suspicious of the world around her, but she's a good girl, full of energy and just a little bit rambunctious. She adores Buffett, and while I suspect Buffett would never admit it, she loves Parker.

I tell you all this for a reason beyond the fact that I tend to get sentimental about our dogs.

We had another dog who played a big part in our lives - a black lab named Fan.

Fan was very special, because she came to us as a puppy from a wonderful organization called Guiding Eyes for the Blind. We volunteered to raise her, to get her used to the world, and to get her ready for what eventually would be more rigorous training as a seeing eye dog. To be honest, we were a little surprised when she made the cut; despite all of our best efforts (and I give Mrs. Content Guy all the credit here), Fan was always a little bit undisciplined, a little resistant to being boxed in. Again, a dog after my own heart. But when after 18 months it was time for her to be tested, Fan passed with flying colors. It was as if she knew that line from the Bible, about there being a time to put away the things of youth.

Fan went off to training, and eventually was assigned to a young blind woman, who wrote us a couple of letters over the years. I remember one of the letters telling us of a very specific incident in which Fan saved her life. It was years after Fan had lived with us, but we were proud. That's our girl.

As pretty much always happens with guiding eye dogs, there came a time when Fan burned out, and she was retired, and sent to live with another family. We never trained another Guiding Eyes dog in the same way, though a number of times we've brought in puppies for days at a time to "socialize" them. But giving up Fan after 18 months was hard on the family, almost as hard as when Kipling died, and it seemed easier on everybody not to make the longer commitment. Whenever we'd have those puppies, though, we'd think of Fan.

Got a call this week from Guiding Eyes. They just wanted us to know that after a long and happy and very, very useful life, Fan had passed away.

When I heard the message, I surprised myself. I cried a little bit. Because she wasn't just a dog after my own heart, but even after all these years, like Kipling and Buffett and Parker, she was a special dog who was in my heart.

I just wanted to tell you about her.




That's it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday.

Slàinte!

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