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The quiet dog 

He only visited for a little over 12 hours, but the whole household still misses him. On our arrival home from work and school, we couldn't help but notice a rather large dog hanging out in our back yard. There are a couple of nomad canine teams that pass through the neighborhood on a semi-regular basis--a Mutt (no offense intended) and Jeff pair in particular--but this guy was new, and without a collar or tags. He joined us and our year-and-a-half-old pooch for a walk in the woods, wolfed down several bowls of food upon our return, and then lapped up water with a spattering intensity. Standing next to him was a bit like being front row at the Sea World whale show.

A quick Internet check had us convinced that the new guy was a Dogue de Bordeaux, a.k.a. a French Mastiff (or, no doubt in some circles, a Freedom Mastiff), or perhaps an American Bulldog. He wasn't neutered, and rather proud of it, and he spent a lot of time marking his territory. Being that we like to keep our living room relatively urine-free, that habit was enough to keep us from inviting him inside.

When we first brought our collie home, it took several days and a couple of family meetings to decide on the name Cal. However, our visitor had a name within minutes: Duke. It just popped into my head and was an instant perfect fit, mainly because he looked a lot like John Wayne in The Quiet Man. He had a sad mug and haunted eyes, as if he was hiding a painful secret, like maybe he had killed a man in the ring back in Pittsburgh. He was stolid and silent, a little unnervingly so, really. If any dog could ever accurately be described as laconic, Duke was the one.

That night, we all took turns going outside to visit Duke, who was hanging tight. Around 10 p.m., my wife put a dog bed on the front porch along with a snack and a gallon of water, and Duke settled down for the night. When I got up at 5 a.m., I checked the porch, and there was Duke snuggled in the bed. He accompanied Cal on both his morning walks, and then when we left to start our days, Duke returned to the bed on the porch.

When we got to work, my wife called the Durham County Animal Shelter to file a "Found Dog" report, and I did the same for the Orange County Shelter, Cal's original home. Nobody called either place during the course of the day looking for a large, quiet dog. At the end of the day, as we approached the house, our son Jace voiced what was on all of our minds, "Do you think Duke is still there?"

Nope, Duke was gone--from the porch, from the yard, and from the neighborhood. Thanks for dropping by, Duke. We hope that your owners drove by and found you lounging, and that you're home safe, sound and spattering. And if your unneutered state is for reasons of breeding, may you someday find your Maureen O'Hara.

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