Tom Ryan didn't have much use for dogs when he was a boy in New York. He had been bitten by one as a youngster, habitually tormented by another when he was a paperboy, and by the time he finished a stint as a mailman his distrust of canines had degenerated into profound dislike.
Then he met his wife, Diane, who had rescued her dog, Mensa, in Mexico 12 years before. You don't get between a woman and her dog--everyone knows that--so Tom learned to get along and when Mensa died five years later, he grieved, too.
Many moves later, Tom and Diane found themselves in Bisbee, Arizona, with a fenced yard containing nothing and, for some reason, Tom started thinking he might want a dog. After all, it was BISBEE. Everyone had a dog.
But Tom was still uncertain about dogs in general and Diane wasn't sure she was ready for the emotional involvement. Maybe a LITTLE dog, they thought. So Tom went to the Bisbee Animal Shelter just to look. And there was Ben. He wasn't small. And he wasn't even particularly innocuous-looking. Ben's eyes could see right through you and into your heart. They say that dogs are good judges of character, which I haven't found to be all that accurate (the sloppier someone eats and the more interesting he smells, the better my dogs like him), but in Ben's case....well, when he looked at me I was grateful that I wasn't hiding some dark anti-dog secret.
Besides being the wrong size and not exactly oozing with the milk of canine kindness, Ben had another quirk: he was afraid of men. He and his pal, Jerry, had been dumped in the desert and probably had too heavy a hand before that. Jerry didn't take it that hard and was easy to place, but Ben...
Tom went home and the next Sunday he and Diane came to look at the dogs together. Ben was still there and after being assured that they could return Ben if it turned out to be a bad match, Tom and Diane left the shelter as new dog owners.
The dog who was afraid of men had been adopted by the man who was afraid of dogs. It was better than a perfect placement--it was a poetic placement.
Ben's attitude and swagger earned him a new name: Duke.
For medical reasons, Tom is required to take long brisk walks, so Duke puts him on the other end of a leash twice a day and off the two go.
Now, one year later, Ben/Duke has gone from a very serious young dog to a lighthearted happy pampered pet and Tom has evolved into a most ardent dog lover. It's the best kind of happy ending. The real Duke would have approved.
Saints celebrating feast days today include Saint Saturnius, Saint Dativus and Companions, Saint Lucius, Saint Lazarus, Saint Severinus, Saint Caedmon, Saint Gregory II, Saint Benedict of Aniane, and Saint Paschal I.