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Last night sleep came less, for we lost our best friend yesterday. Trooper Ray, our 16 year-old buddy, had suffered a stroke and crossed the rainbow bridge with us by his side.

Trooper came to us as a fellow some considered "unadoptable." He had been in numerous homes, but his aggressiveness and severe separation anxiety made him a challenge. When we first met him at Marjorie Simon's home, she warned us that he would probably hide and lash out if we reached for him. As we sat and talked quietly, Trooper came over, jumped up, sniffed us both, and snuggled in between us on the couch. He had, as Margie said, "chosen us."

What followed was a year of lots of love and patience, but the little guy finally realized he was with his forever family, settled in and claimed his unique spot in our lives and hearts. Over the next 13 years, Trooper would carefully check out every visitor, putting his little legs on their chest and looking squarely at them, finally wagging his little stub of a tail in acceptance once he was sure he'd made his claim of King of the Hill perfectly clear. When we adopted Sugar from NBGR, he took her under his wing and became the voice of both, letting us know when either had to go out or when it was time to eat. Every evening, his rituals provided a soothing backdrop as we all drifted to sleep, his warm little body curled up tightly next to our heads until morning came, and with it his barks to "wake up and feed us!" He was a part of things every Christmas, every birthday, when our daughter came home from college, when she married, and through all the joys and sorrows of family life.

The years inevitably take their toll, and so they did with our friend. Trooper lost his eyesight two years ago, but even without vision he soldiered on, ruling the roost as only he could. He quickly learned to use a bell hung on the doorknob to signal time to go out and learned his way around our home all over again, this time by smell and touch. He still loved to cuddle and snuggle, and savored the feel of the warm sun on his body in our backyard. He never turned down a good meal, and kept tabs on his friend Sugar. In the ensuing years, his quick mind clouded, his step slowed, his enthusiasm waned and it became clear he was getting tired.

What happened yesterday was not a surprise, but it was nonetheless unexpected. The drive to our kindly veterinarian was an anxious one, as we realized some things can't be fixed, and sometimes what's loving and best is hardest.

The house is quieter now. Sugar sniffs about and looks at us, and hesitantly goes outside alone as she's never had to do before. The circle of life is complete for Trooper. Our lives go on, richer for having known him and having him as a part of our family.

Keith and Carol Rovell
Houston, TX


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