He won our hearts from the moment we met him.

Mind you, he was scrawny, and timid, in the same way that a person might be walking into a new environment, meeting new people.

Ranger was an English Setter, and once we put some pounds on him, a handsome guy. His distinctive coat of black and white fur and a black patch over his left eye made him a favorite of kids who reached out to pat him.

The instant when we knew we were going to adopt him came only minutes after he and the rescue center lady walked through our back door.

He sniffed his way through the kitchen, then the dining room, and into the living room.

I was sitting in a straight-back chair there, and he immediately walked over to my side and put his chin on my knee. He looked up at me from that position, and at that moment, he chose me.

My wife was nearby, and said, “I guess we have a new dog, right?”

We were not alone in adopting a pet, and we were not alone a decade or more later in deciding that it was time to say goodbye to him as he dropped further and further into senility.

It feels to us as though he’s still here. My wife swore she could hear his paws on the hardwood floors of the house after he was gone, and I look for him sleeping in his favorite spot on the rug in the hallway.

But he’s gone, and now we are spending time remembering what a great friend he was, how he became very much a part of our family.

He loved to be scratched right behind his big floppy ears, and he loved it when one of us would slip him an occasional treat from the dining room table.

Until the last couple of years, as age caught up to him, he would point at creatures on our daily walks.

Rabbits mostly. He would freeze, in a classic pointing stance, his tail sticking straight out, his attention firmly fixed on the bunny.

The problem for we humans is that by instinct, he would freeze in a pointing stance, and the rabbits would freeze out of, we think, an instinct for self-preservation.

The stand-off could go on forever, very often on a wintery morning.

It was a big part of Ranger. He loved his walks, and his fenced-in yard where he would hunt for more creatures.  Mind you, he never caught any, never intended to.

In his later years, when we first knew he was getting old, he lost interest in the bunnies and birds.

Through it all, he was a tender and gentle companion who often put his paw on my foot and leaned into my leg, claiming me as his own.

Perhaps he remembered how I fed him by hand, sitting alongside him on the floor when he first came to our house as a scared young dog.

Or perhaps he just understood that us guys have a special bond. We went everywhere together. I miss him.

A lot.