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We really didn't mean to bring home another canine kid that day. We were just in Bemidji with a little time on our hands and decided to pay a quick visit to the Beltrami Humane Society to pay our respects to their four-legged orphans. It's a fine shelter - clean, well run, and committed to the best possible care of the animals housed therein. I had adopted Moonie from this same shelter a few years earlier and had visited several times since.

This day, Joe was with me. I don't know what drew us to the shelter on this particular occasion. It was always a difficult place to visit. My heart kept pushing me through the door, while my mind kept firmly admonishing, "No more animals!". We already had three dogs and one cat, not to mention the goat and the horses. Enough was enough.

As we entered the building, we could hear the din from the adjoining kennel area. Through the large windows, I could see many dogs jumping excitedly and barking incessantly through their enclosure gates. The receptionist explained there had been several new dogs brought in that day, and they had excited the entire canine population. The animals were a bit over-stimulated. We entered the kennel area and tried not to be too distracted by all the noise as we wandered down the long rows of pens. Run after run held canine kids pleading enthusiastically, if not altogether frantically, for a new beginning in a loving home. The activity level matched the noise level, and I was overwhelmed. So was the beautiful white dog sitting silently against the wall with head bowed and ears laid back in the kennel at the end of the row.

Not a jump. Not a peep. Just those big, soft, sad brown eyes watching intently as I walked the distance down the row. When I approached her enclosure and stuck my fingers through the chain link, she reached out to greet my hand with her tongue. I looked at Joe and said, "I think we have to take this one out for a walk." We walked her directly to the car and opened the door. She jumped in the back seat and immediately laid down. We went back inside and immediately filled out the paperwork.

There was never a moment's question about where she belonged. As soon as we reached home, she briefly greeted the other dogs, then trotted to our bedroom, jumped up on the bed, and snuggled down for the night. She was home.

Aspen aka Bootsers (also White Fang, Fangbo, Bolena, Lena, and many others) is one of the kindest and most perceptive animals I have ever known. She adores people - especially kids - and will quite happily lay on her back for an hour while tiny children pick ticks out of her long, fluffy coat. She's equally loving and accepting of other canines and was the first to figure out how to appease the Moondog's temper. Bootsers will quietly clean the ears of the alpha dog until Moonie completely relaxes and forgets the source of her irritations. On the other hand, Boots is quite capable of being one of those irritations. She can be quite exuberant and wildly playful at times, qualities the Dog Police decidedly does not appreciate! Fortunately for the white dog, she can easily out-maneuver Moonie and only gets caught and wrestled to the ground when she's good and ready.

For all the sweetness in this little girl's soul, she has had her less tolerant moments. She surprisingly defended the property quite aggressively when a neighbor's car died on our road and he came in on foot to use our phone. We were temporarily off the property, and the white dog was outside. Much to our amazement, she wouldn't let our neighbor anywhere near the house!

He wasn't the only one she tried to keep from the house, either. When the babies made their way into our family, Bootsers was not a happy camper! Although she had always gotten along just fine with the Queen of the Domain, Boots was not about to accept the rowdy invasion of five uncontrollable, adolescent felines. They were just too much for her. Our previously kind and loving white dog turned into a snapping, growling White Fang! I assumed the unwelcome role of disciplinarian to my little girl until her nerves settled and she learned to accept the new family members with a reasonable amount of tolerance.

Today we all live in as much peace as is ever present in a family of 19. Our sweet and beautiful white dog can once again be relied upon to soften every room with her presence and warm every heart with her love. :-)

Bootsers passed away on November 15, 2004, at the approximate age of 15. She had been recently diagnosed with cutaneous T-cell epitheliotropic malignant lymphoma, an uncommon form of cancer that is resistant to treatment. Though we lit candles at her passing, it really wasn't necessary. This gentle girl's spirit was always made of light. She illuminated the lives of all who were graced to know her.

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