No one ever knew it to look at him, but somehow this scraggly little black mutt managed to live up to his name: Prince.

Now, let it be known that we did not name him Prince. If he'd been our dog right from the start, we probably would have named him something much more appropriate, like Scruffy or Scrappy or Scamp. But no, he came to us with the name and "only for a short visit."

His owner, Julie, was an exchange student from Singapore, and she'd found the poor puppy literally lying in the street gutter. She told us how he'd been wet and cold and hungry, and despite her apartment's no pets rule, she had rescued him and taken him in. But after several weeks of hiding the forbidden dog, she brought him to our house "for a short visit."

"Just for a couple of weeks," she promised me, "until I can figure something else out."

But after we'd spent a couple of weeks doggy-sitting, our friend Julie pleaded with us to keep her doggy for good. "You have a yard and a fence," she pointed out. "And I'll come to visit every week."

Of course, she didn't have to push too hard since our boys (ages four and five at the time) had already fallen in love with this peppy little puppy. In fact, we were all taken by the sweet little mutt (a mix of Scotty and other terrier and who knew what else), but we weren't too crazy about the name. "Prince" sounded so formal—more like the name of a German shepherd, Great Dane, or Doberman pinscher. Not a scraggly little black mutt.

Just the same, our family adopted the dog "formerly known as Prince," and although we all tried to come up with a name more fitting, we seemed to be stuck with Prince.

Before too long Prince revealed some of his princely character to our family. It started when our younger son Luke was sick in bed with the flu. Now, Prince didn't usually go upstairs where the boys' rooms were. He usually stuck to me like glue since I was the one who fed him. But on this particular day he disappeared. When I went upstairs to take Luke some juice and check his fever, there was Prince, resting quietly beside my sick boy.

At first I thought maybe Prince was ill too (could dogs get the flu?). But his tail wagged happily when he saw me, and he seemed perfectly fine. He didn't leave Luke's side until Luke began feeling better. That's when I began wondering if we should start calling our dog "Dr. Prince."

Now, if this had happened only once, we might have chalked it up to a fluke or coincidence, but the same thing happened again and again. Whenever anyone in our family was sick, Prince would be right by that person's side, almost as if it was his job to take care of them until they recovered. It was incredible to see this normally active dog put aside his romping needs to display this kind of amazing canine compassion for an ailing family member.

But perhaps the most remarkable Prince memory I have is of the time one of our cats (which Prince normally had little use for) had been hit by a car. Pepper's injured leg was bandaged, and we put him in a cardboard box with a blanket, hoping he would rest and heal with time. And sure enough, when I went to check on Pepper's condition, there was Prince, right there in the box with him. He was peacefully curled up right next to Pepper, keeping the cat warm. It was the strangest thing to see. Even our other cat hadn't gone to that much trouble for his feline friend.

Our little Prince lived for nearly sixteen years. And he was loyal and true to our family the entire time. Even in his final days, when he was in pain and nearly blind, I knew that he would lay down his little life for any of us. By then we had all come to realize that his name hadn't been a mistake at all. Without a doubt, our little mutt had been named appropriately—for he truly was a Prince among dogs.

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