Have you ever had one of those special animals in your life that you couldn't have lived without? Who taught you more about living and loving than any other worldly creature? These are heart dogs, once-in-a-lifetime treasures that nest in our hearts and stay forever. In a fitting celebration of them this Valentine's Day week,...

rannypup30new.jpgHave you ever had one of those special animals in your life that you couldn’t have lived without? Who taught you more about living and loving than any other worldly creature? These are heart dogs, once-in-a-lifetime treasures that nest in our hearts and stay forever. In a fitting celebration of them this Valentine’s Day week, The Seattle Times pet blog asked seven local dog people to remember and honor their heart dogs in essays and photos.

Ranny Green, longtime pets columnist and desk editor at The Seattle Times, retired in 2008. He continues to be involved in pet-rescue work and is on the board of directors of Noah’s Wish and Angel on a Leash. He writes a monthly feature and dog-book reviews for www.seattlekennelclub.org. He and his wife live in Tacoma with a 12-year-old German shepherd, Andy, and a 9-year-old Pembroke Welsh corgi, Trudy, both rescue dogs. He is pictured above with Abbe.

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By Ranny Green

Abbe, my little Southern gal, was a life changer and yet an aberration of sorts. My wife, Mary, and I have always been big-dog people, owning German shepherds, a golden retriever and a former racing greyhound, all rescues.

But when I traveled to Slidell, La., in 2005 to file stories for The Times on pet rescue in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, this little sheltie-corgi mix won my heart in a shelter holding more than 1,000 dogs and cats.

Working for and writing about Noah’s Wish’s incredible rescue efforts was my task at hand. That included dog walking, cleaning cages and assorted other tasks. Luck put me in Abbe’s (that was a name we gave her at home) corner of the facility, so I walked her several times daily. Somehow this little gal and I bonded, and when it was time to return home about two weeks later, I sought permission and signed documents to bring her along.

A couple of days before I arrived in Slidell, she had been fished from the brackish water in town, by animal-control authorities, with no identification of any sort. And during my Slidell stay, no one had come to the shelter looking for her, either.

Yet, when it came time to leave for Seattle, I had to sign Noah’s Wish paperwork agreeing to return the 6-year-old, 26-pound dog to her rightful owner should that individual come forth. Another Seattle volunteer agreed to do the same with another dog.