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In February 2012, an ad for a “hypoallergenic” and “non-shedding” white male Borzoi puppy appeared on Ebay Classifieds in West Palm Beach FL. A friend predicted, “He will end up in the shelter.” Sure enough, he was dumped in the overnight box at Palm Beach County Animal Care on March 15. He created a sensation among the staff. They named him Ivan.

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Nikolai was a delight. We nicknamed him Mr. Escargot because he always tried to pick up the snails that traversed our driveway at night. He was very sweet and gentle, and loved to give ear-baths to dogs and humans alike. He sang magnificently. He destroyed my favorite down blanket, coating himself in so much down that only his nose and eyes were visible. He bonded with Vladimir. At Christmas time he barked at the dog-sized wooden reindeer on our lawn. He liked to lie in doorways, requiring delicate footwork from anyone going in or out of the room. On our walks, he charged hissing lawn sprinklers and drank water from them. He de-squeaked countless toys.

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We adopted Mia from the Chinese meat market. She bonded to Nikolai immediately. Where he went, she followed. Soon she was pulling him around by the scruff of his neck. He put up with everything she did to him.