Adopted from a shelter on September 22, 2001, Dude was estimated to be 7 months old by his vet.  I figured he was born sometime in February and selected February 14th as the little guy’s birthday.  He was a solid black Shih Tzu who managed to look both distinguished and adorable but had the heart of a Rottweiler.  His previous owners had turned him in with a punctured eye and he was left sitting in a cage with no medical care, enduring what must have been unimaginable pain.  The shelter personnel discovered his “eye infection” upon his release.  I had no idea how badly he was injured or how stoic he had been until our vet examined him.  After extensive medical care, his eye was saved but it troubled him for the rest of his life.  He had allergies that bothered him constantly, but it was never determined was caused them.  None of that kept him down, though.  He’d excitedly run around the house when he saw he was going on an outing and would run to his basket of toys to give them a good walloping before he left.  The first spring after I got him, I found him one day in the backyard intently eyeing a buzzing bumblebee (probably the first time he’d seen one).  Another time at the park, I saw him desperately trying to shake something out of his paw.  He panicked.  “Get it off; get it off”, he seemed to say.  It was a bumblebee!  It was buzzing on the ground and got stuck when he pawed at it curiously.  How he loved his trips to the park, any park!  And if there were geese around, he’d chase them until he’d cleared all the fields of them!  Only then would he come back to us, prancing proudly.
Coming back from a walk one day, I let his leash go, since we were close to home and I knew he would follow me.  No, he did not.  By the time I turned around, he had disappeared.  I searched up and down the block calling his name, going in people’s backyards.  I asked a neighbor if she had seen him.  She said no.  As I continued to search, the same neighbor came by later in her truck with Dude sitting on her lap, happily looking out the window, as if to say “What an adventure I had!”  He had been found on the next block, the mailman holding his leash.  He was fond of his adventures, often wandering off to neighbors’ backyards when we weren’t looking.  Such a social butterfly and what a gentle spirit!
About a year after I got Dude, my husband’s heart problems began.  Dude took to sleeping with him and guarding him.  Dude became my husband’s little shadow.
When Dude started acting strangely about a year ago, the vet said it was ‘just old age’ and because he was 11 years old, I let it go at that.  Looking back, I’ve realized that he tried hard to tell me that something was wrong.  I should have sought a second opinion or insisted on tests.  Something! Anything!  The second opinion came too late; it was lung cancer.
After hurricane Sandy, my husband suffered a stroke.  And although Dude was sick and weak from the cancer, he sat at my husband’s feet, guarding him – refusing to eat or drink.  He became even more emaciated and his coughing increased to the point that it wouldn’t let him sleep.  On January 16, 2013, I let him go to his rest.  They said I was doing the right thing.  It sure didn’t feel like it.  Choking back tears and with a broken heart, I watched his life stilled.  I pray that he forgives my final betrayal.  Dude is one of the finest persons I’ve known and, for such a small creature, has left an enormous void.  He had given his all and filled our lives with joy and love.  Rest well, my distinguished little gentleman, my little Dude, Beloved Friend.  You are a wonderful Doggie!

— Minerva from Roselle Park, NJ