Today, just about a month short of his 18th birthday, Weevil, my loyal little rat terrier, took his final breath.

Weevil chose to come home with me when he was six weeks old. I went to visit four small, fat, sweet, healthy boys from his litter, out in the country, on a lovely June day. I cuddled each wiggly, licky boy, and couldn’t decide between them. I looked down at my feet, and asked who would like to come home with me, and Weevil chose that moment to leap at one of his brothers, and fell, belly down, on my foot. He wobbled there, paddling, trying to right himself. I scooped him up, handed the farmer my money, and that was that. I’ve always said that Weevil chose me.

Weevil came into a home that already had a dog who had never been socialized. Pearl was mean to him right from the start, and Weevil, sweet boy that he was, just took it from her. Pearl had a habit of hiding her treats under the bed, and then running out and grabbing Weev’s, so I would often plop down on the couch, and tuck Weevil behind my bent legs, to give him a few minutes of protection. As he grew, that became his spot—wedged up against my ass, with his head on my hip, looking out at the world from behind me.

Weevil and I struck out on our own when he was about a year old. First, we moved to a small apartment in Sherman. Our first day there, he disappeared, and I spent about an hour in our new neighborhood, walking up and down the street, calling his name. He turned up in the apartment, in the very back room, hidden behind a piece of framed art that was leaning against the wall. The slam of the screen door, new to him, made him run for cover. I have never squeezed him tighter, or cried harder, than I did when I finally found him. On a day when the rest of my life was sort of imploding, the worst thing I could think of was losing him.

A year later, we moved to a bigger apartment, with a loft, and a spiral staircase with floating steps. Weevil didn’t like that one bit. But, bed was upstairs, and food was downstairs, so he slowly worked out how to go up and down. What started as a slow creep that needed lots of encouragement quickly gave way to a flying, scrambling whirl. Terrier fearlessness generally prevailed where Weevil was concerned.

Weevil was a sweet dog. He pretty much loved everyone he met, and, in true terrier fashion, wanted to get up in everyone’s business to see what was going on. The only time I ever saw him deviate from this happy, nosy path was when the mailman made the mistake of coming up the front walk while we were standing on the porch. Weevil squared off, hackles up, between me and the mailman, and made it clear he should come no further. It was frightening, and awesome, to see my sweet little pup turn into my protector. We tried not to encounter the mailman in person again, but from then on, Weevil would scramble at the window like he wanted to kick someone’s ass whenever he heard the mail drop into the box.

Weevil was a tough little guy. Well into double digits in age, the vet would ask me if I was sure he was as old as his chart said. He looked, and acted, like he was still a young dog. It was only in the last couple of years, when his tan spots turned white, and he lost both his hearing and sight, that he showed signs of slowing down. In the last year, he spent most of his days sleeping on one of the many pillows scattered around the floor, moving from one sunny spot to the next, until he finally flopped down on whatever pillow was closest to me. It was hard to watch him slow down, but having to adjust for his blindness, deafness, and in the last few months, his difficulty walking, helped prepare me for this morning. I had time to consider, and to think, and to make us both ready for the inevitable. And I had time to scratch him behind the ears, and hold him close, and whisper things I knew he couldn’t hear, but needed to be said anyway.

My dog Weevil. Twenty pounds of unconditional love, wrapped in an attractive, furry package. It was an honor to hold him in my arms as he passed from this world.