Getty, aka Serengetti Nitrus, was our first foster, entrusted to two brand new, still wet behind the ears volunteers and wanna-be fosters. Retrieving him required a white-knuckled, jaw-clenching drive over snow-packed ice to Dr. Ellis's clinic from Garland - then another the next day to retrieve badly needed pain medication.

For the next 48 hours we came up with and discard several cowardly justifications to pass the old dog on to someone more capable of meeting his many needs.

Then the granddaughter comes to visit and as is often written in fairy tales - but seldom happens in real life - heart recognizes heart, and he is hers.

She gives him her faded and tattered gray bear, a treasure from babyhood "so he will know I love him even when I'm not here."

She slows the naturally exuberant hop-skip-jump of childhood to an easier pace - one more adaptable to arthritic old bones. The old dog saves all his energy for her visits - waits at the door to greet her and then prances and dances, throwing the teddy high in the air and then catching it to impress her. For a while he is young again and ready to race the wind.

Our Getty lived with us a little over two years. He gave all of us gifts. To Jeff and I, the gift of courage to open our hearts and door to other special needs seniors and rehabs. To Stephanie, the gifts of patience and unconditional love.

Today, at age 9, the Scooby Doo and RugRat décor in her room are giving way to Hillary Duff and the University of Texas. But by her desk hangs a faded collar, next to a picture of a little girl and her beloved hound.

Postscript: At Greyhound Planet Day this year, 2005, Stephanie released a bright red balloon in Getty's memory. Assured by me, that he could see it coming from the Bridge, we took another little step forward - Stephanie announced she was ready for Andy to be hers. "I think Getty would like that," she said.

And so the gray teddy comes off the shelf and sleeps with another brindle grey.

Ty and Jeff Lawrence

3400 Carlisle St #430, Dallas, TX 75204-1265
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