Today I loaded Strider into the car.
We drove east along a little state highway. Over the lake, across the creek, past the McCain/Palin billboard, up and down the hills where the oaks are just turning color. The sky is cloudless and blue today, and Strider had his nose out the window when he wasn't resting his head on my arm.
When we got to the place where I had gone to pick him up six months ago, he got very excited. He greeted his foster mom by rearing up and putting his front paws on her shoulders, then bending down to lick her face. She was thrilled at how beautifully his coat had come in, and how all the mange he'd had was gone. I was glad to see that he still remembered the person who'd held him on her lap (all 80 pounds of him, at the time!) and sung to him when he was so sick with pneumonia that he couldn't sleep.
Then his foster mom introduced him to her female Anatolian shepherd, popped them both into the back seat of her truck, and I hugged him goodbye through the window. The last thing I saw was his butt, tail wagging, as he got comfortable with the other dog in the truck.
Strider did well here for the first four months. Then, as he got out of puppyhood, he started developing a personality that just didn't jive with Max's. They were fighting every day, and Max (being slightly smaller and older) was getting the worst of it. I was having to patch him up nearly every night. Max was scared and miserable, Strider was turning into an aggressive bully, and I was at my wits' end.
So Strider-Man is now going to be on a farm in the far, far northeast corner of Texas, up beyond Dallas, near the Red River. It's border country, hilly and green with creeks on the property he can swim in and coyotes he can chase. That'll be his job: he'll be running the fenceline on fifteen acres and protecting everything on the property. He'll be good at it, and it'll be good for him to have both a job and almost-unlimited space to run. I expect him to be rippling with muscle, tougher than leather, and completely his own self by the middle of next year.
I am going to miss him a lot. He's a good boy. Very nearly the best boy ever, if Max hadn't already had that title.
Max, meanwhile, is basking in the sun, somehow aware that nobody's going to come out of the corner of the yard, knock him down, and worry his head. He's looking forward to renewing his acquaintance with the pug next door and going for long sunset walks.
Maybe someday I'll try another buddy for Max. For now, though, he has to get his mojo back and remember what it's like to be Top Pup.
Stridey-boy, Big Stupid Goofball, Snorgle-Pup, Scrimble-Nimble, Nom-Hound, I'll miss you.