"The one, absolute, unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him, the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous, is his dog."
Senator George Graham Vest, "Eulogy on the Dog"
Being a firm believer in these words, one of the first things I did when I moved here six years ago was to adopt a dog from the Payson Humane Society.
The dog I had in the Valley died a few months earlier and I decided to wait so I could choose a local canine already acclimated to the Rim country. That ended up being Rex, a 100-plus pound Black Lab/Rottweiler mix.
Rex is a load albeit a well-meaning, good-natured load. His only downside is that some day he's going to over-enthusiastically "greet" some little old lady and kill her.
I'd like to say we lived happily ever after, but that stuff only happens in fairy tales like "Little Red Riding Hood," and even she had an encounter with a member of the canine family in drag, no less.
Eventually I went to work for the Roundup where photographer Scott B. Smith was making weekly treks to the humane society to shoot the Doggy of the Week. Scott suggested a second dog might be just what I needed to make my life complete.
He even picked one out for me a pooch named Mr. Man.
"You need this dog, if only because he has such a cool name," he said.
I checked Mr. Man out, but resisted the temptation until he was safely adopted by somebody else.
I'd like to say we lived happily ever after, but about that time Scott moved into advertising and I inherited the Doggy of the Week assignment. That means a trip to the humane society every Friday afternoon to photograph the chosen dog.
That's how I met Babe, another Black Lab mix who was so darn cute she pretty much had the run of the shelter. Every Friday afternoon, there was Babe looking up at me with those big brown eyes.
And every time I stopped to pet her, a humane society staffer said, "You need this dog," or, "Are you ready to take this dog home?" or "She really likes you."
To make a long story short, it wasn't long before Babe moved in with Rex and me.
Since Rex is a guy and my horse, Son, is a guy, Babe represented the reintroduction of the female into my home.
The three of us had to clean up our manly acts, but we finally got through it and Babe became part of the family.
I'd like to say we lived happily ever after, but there were still those weekly trips to the humane society. That's where I met Shiloh yet another female Black Lab mix so cute she had the run of the humane society.
I thought I was safe when a society staffer took Shiloh home for what turned out to be an unsuccessful trial. Seems Shiloh can jump four-foot fences in a single bound.
I did not volunteer the fact that I have a six-foot fence, but they know these things down at the humane society. And that, they said, made me a perfect candidate to adopt Shiloh.
When I argued that I already had two dogs and a horse, the humane society staff snorted derisively and in unison, "Big deal, each of us has nine dogs, seven cats and three horses."
Still, I resisted for weeks until that fateful day earlier this month when a front page story in the Roundup proclaimed a dog glut at the humane society. Unfortunately, I had written the story.
The humane society staff had me and they knew it. If you don't believe your own stories, how can you expect others to?
I picked Shiloh up the day the story came out, making three black dogs, a black horse and one white guy.
Rarely, it seems, do our actions reap immediate reward (or retribution, as the case may be), but a few days after Shiloh joined us, an incident occurred that made me very happy to have dogs strategically located all over my property. Babe's incessant barking warned me of a coiled rattlesnake just a few feet from my horse.
I'd like to say we lived happily ever after, but the last few times I've been down to the humane society, this cat named Sammy has been crawling up on my lap.
You guessed it Sammy is black.