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Prime Time: The tall, dark stranger who came to call

He sauntered along the lake -tall, dark, lean - his body sleek and muscular. I had never seen him before and assumed he was the companion of summer neighbors, but he walked along our shoreline, as if he didn't know borders or property lines.

I assumed he would explore the shoreline and then leave. He was not in a hurry but stopped every few feet along the way. I watched to see if he would stroll out onto our dock, but he didn't. Still, he lingered for quite some time on the beach, checking things out.

I watched him for a while but then resumed my tasks, and when I looked again, he was gone. Later that afternoon, though, he appeared once again, not on the shoreline, but on the deck of our home. He had approached silently, unannounced. He came toward the door but then turned back. He paced the length of the deck a few times, and then made himself comfortable, sitting on the deck with a view of the lake.

He seemed oddly comfortable here, but I was certain I'd never seen him before. Who was this dark stranger? I didn't approach him but once more went about my tasks.

When my husband came inside after work he asked, in reference to the stranger, "Where did he come from?"

"He just wandered in," I said. "I thought maybe you knew him."

"I've never seen him before," he said.

Neither of us approached the stranger nor spoke to him. Without discussing it, we silently agreed to ignore him and hope he would leave. There was nothing threatening in his behavior, he had not caused any disturbance, nor had he asked for anything. Our little white Jack Russell terrier had paid him no mind after a few half-hearted barks. She ignored him, so we followed suit.

That night, the stranger stayed on our deck. In fact, he slept there under the stars. He did not ask for food or drink. He was still there when we woke the next morning. He stayed the entire day and slept once again on the deck.

I ignored him again for the entire day. Surely he would leave soon if we paid him no mind.

On the third day, when I walked outside to get the morning paper, the stranger was at the door. He said nothing, but looked at me with pleading eyes. That was when I noticed how thin he'd gotten. I offered him food and drink, and he devoured them quickly.

When I stepped back into the house, I started to make phone calls - to law enforcement, to the radio stations, to the veterinary hospitals, to the animal shelters. I put an ad in the paper.

"I have a dog," I explained. "It appears to be a full-grown male Rottweiler, wearing a choke chain but with no tags. He has been camped out on my deck now for two nights. Has anyone reported a missing Rottweiler?"

No one had.

He obeyed simple commands like "sit," "lie down" and "stay." Someone must have taught him something. He wanted to come inside the house. Surely someone must have owned him and cared for him. For a week, the ad ran in the paper, but no one called. Area shelters informed me they had no room for another dog.

When I was about to take the Jack for a walk, I couldn't very well leave the stray behind. He appeared to be young - we guessed a few years old. He needed exercise, too, and he didn't show any sign of leaving our yard. I put the lead on him and took him for a walk. Seventy pounds or more of powerful dog is a lot to walk, but eventually he reined in and stayed at my side, slowing his long pace to walk with me.

Not knowing what else to call him, we called him "Buddy."

Buddy spent two weeks at our home, sleeping on the deck, walking the Fern Lake Trail each day with me, keeping squirrels out of the yard, ignoring the jealous snarls of the Jack, and fetching the tennis ball. When my son and daughter came home for Labor Day weekend, they both talked about adopting him, but neither really had the place for a big dog.

I placed another ad in the paper: "Free to good home." I hoped Buddy's original owners would claim him, but I feared they may have been unable to care for him any longer and just dropped him off "in the country" where some people assume there is limitless space and any stray animal will be adopted. Having spent several days trying to find a home for Buddy or a shelter that would take him, I understood how an owner who could no longer keep him might become desperate, but my second ad got several responses, and Buddy ended up with a nice young couple from Fargo, N.D.

He is one of the lucky ones.

I just with he hadn't had to roam, homeless and neglected, first.