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The next few days and weeks were a blur of crying and depression and looking around at every sound. Is it Rug? The lack of the big shaggy dog was palpable. When I began looking at dog rescue sites online, it was a serious search for relief. One day, there was a black shaggy face. Mat (smaller than Rug) has been with me for almost a year, so now is probably about two years old.

When I first brought him home, all his vertebrae and ribs stood out individually, he was shaved due to matting, and he had heartworms. All that is resolved, his thick coat is shiny black and wavy, his tail is a long plume and he is heartworm negative. After the first month of not allowing me to touch his head or face, one day he came up to me and put his mouth and nose to my cheek and that was it. He had decided I was okay. 

No, he isn’t Rug and I don’t pretend he is or ever will be but he is a great goofy dog who never got a chance to really grow into his huge feet and long legs. He will happily roll around on the floor or on grass with mouth wide open—no reason, just being alive. Yes, he likes to wander—all that time on the streets, I think. He has lots of fears but his confidence is growing. I love him. Last week, he went on his first camping trip (and my first since Rug’s death) and discovered wading in lakes and scaring geese. 

Perhaps we don’t “save” the dogs in the pounds and shelters; more often the dogs save us.

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Pat Goodwin lives in Alexandria, La., with Mat and Annie in a tiny old house with a huge yard. She expresses a thank you to Annie, a rat terrier adult-rescue who taught Mat how to open a door, that the yard is this way, where the food bowls are, and to come when called. Without her, the adjustment for Mat, who apparently had never been inside a house and was afraid of people, and for Pat would have been MUCH more difficult.

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