Rex died today.
Of his early life we can only speculate.
A young man sees another beating a black dog. He angrily confronts the dog-beater who claims it is to "teach the dog." The young man retorts that he is teaching him nothing but fear and demands possession. "You don't know anything about dogs. Give me that dog." And, inexplicitly, the villain does.
The next day in an online chat for mountain bikers, a curious note appears, confessing that the author has come into possession of a medium sized dog, mixed breed, and he cannot keep him. "My wife says we already have too many dogs."
My son sees the advertisement and begins negotiating. "Ruby would like to have a stepbrother," he argues. My daughter-in-law accedes and Rex enters their family.
His senior stepsister ("I was here first") is a strange Labrador, skinny and high energy. Ruby is a born retriever, endlessly chasing sticks and balls and returning them, dropping them at your feet. "Fun!" she says. "Do it again."
Rex is likely part Lab, but his physiognomy is of a Pit Bull. His psychology is one of a Pit Bull. He is desperate to be loved. He winces when you try to pet him, as if anticipating a blow. But always eager to forgive and give people more chances.
He is extraordinarily gentle around his human sister, Amy (name changed). As she grows, Rex, alone of the family dogs, will obey the three year old without question. Ruby ignores Amy, but Rex comes when she calls, sits when she tells him.
He visits our house regularly. He leans heavily against my leg, asking to be petted. He is not smart, but he is gentle and kind. He fails to understand the game of fetch, thinking it is a time to gallop randomly around the back yard, the tennis ball in his mouth. Ruby runs after him, frustrated that he doesn't understand the basics of the game. Eventually Rex loses the ball, Ruby grabs it, runs towards me, ears flapping wildly, and drops the ball at my feet. Just as Ruby knew I would, I hit it with the racquet. Ruby is joyful. Rex is mystified.
He once saw people coming toward young Amy and, not recognizing them, placed himself between them and his human sister. He loves and wants most of all to be loved. Part of love is protection. You protect those in your pack.
There is no growl, no brandishing of the teeth and those incredible Pit Bull masseter muscles, strong enough to snap a bone. Just a careful watchfulness. "Who are you? What do you want?"
We find a newspaper account. An alcoholic woman passes out on a railroad track. The train is coming, and her dog, a Pit Bull, places himself between her and the train. She survives. He loses his left front leg, but is happy. He has been of help. We recognize Rex in the story.
Rex would give his life for those he loves.
He didn't get the chance.