His name is Bernie, or so I’m told. He answers to it, but he answers to anything else we call him so long as we keep the food coming. He showed up at my neighbor’s house about a year ago on a cold, wet January night. She called me while I was proofreading at the News-Banner office and said, “I’m afraid someone has thrown out another dog with us on this freezing night. Do you happen to have any old covers we can use to make him a bed? I have one but that might not be enough.”

I told her I’d find some and come to her house in a little while. In the meantime, I was ranting to myself about the kind of person who’d throw out a dog, especially on such a night. I read another article, placing a comma here and correcting a misspelled word there. In the meantime, the icy rain continued to fall, and from my desk in the cozy office I could almost feel the temperature dropping. It would be icy by morning.

Finally, I finished, went home to find old comforters, and went off to see Shirley and the dog. They both seemed glad to see me. His tail wagged in greeting. She took all the covers and fashioned the small black and white dog a cozy bed in her back yard. He seemed to appreciate our efforts. In the meantime, I assured her that I’d start trying to find him a home. I was pleased that he was not skin and bones.

The next day when I ventured outside, he was standing by my steps wagging his tail. I gave him a bowl of food, which he gobbled down, and told him I had to go to town. When I returned, he was back at Shirley’s. This went on for some time. I made pictures of him. He didn’t seem to mind. He even smiled for some of them. Posting them on Facebook, I tried to find his owner, though I didn’t put a lot of stock in that plan. I’d tried that with Charlie, and he’s been with us for 11 years now. Nobody claimed him, even when I drove him around the neighborhood talking to people and looking for his owner. He even had on a collar. Funny how the other end of Buck Head has a lot of Charlie look- a-likes. But I digress.

Finally, I tried to contact the rescue groups. For some reason, that didn’t work either. In the meantime, Bernie came and went as he pleased. Sometimes he’d disappear for several days. I’d call and ask Shirley if she’d seen him, but she hadn’t. Then I’d drive by her house and see him in the yard, or I’d come home, and he’d greet me when I opened the car door. It finally dawned on me that I was not the only one feeding him. He should be ravenous when he came back after being gone several days, but he wasn’t. He always wanted food, but he didn’t act like a starving dog when I filled his bowl.

Twice people have stopped by Shirley’s and claimed him, taking him away with them, but he comes back. The lady told her his name is Bernie and that his official home is down Foster Steadham Road. Bernie has grown on us. My grandchildren adore him; he always shows up when they come and they go in the front yard to play with him, take him treats, and people food. You see, he’s a front yard dog. The other dogs who live with us as part of the family are fenced-in backyard dogs. Bernie joins Larry in the way outback if he’s out there working on something. Sometimes he comes to the back fence and converses with our dogs, but we can’t let him in. We’re afraid our dogs might attack him. He’s a lot smaller than them.

Last week though, when I started out to feed Bernie, Charlie, the most ferocious of our dogs, slipped past me and dashed out too. I feared for Bernie, so I rushed out after them. They were greeting each other in the front garden, face to face, black and white tails wagging to beat the band. I think Charlie likes him. So do we. Sometimes I fear that he’s looking for a new home and has chosen mine, but then I assure myself that he’s a neighborhood dog. In the meantime, he has a bowl, which is filled with food twice a day and a nice cozy bed under the deck in the Igloo doghouse which I purchased just before the freeze.