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On 9/13/03 we picked up a dirty black and white pup named Valeska Renaissance Violin" AKA "Fiddler" AKA Cowboy from his owner in Iowa, who no longer wanted him. He was a perfect little traveler, sleeping peacefully with his head in my lap as we traversed the dark, flat prairie. Our headlights beamed into the distance, illuminating the bright future ahead.

Cowboy shredded everything, including our sofa. In his peaceful moments, he would lie in our yard, gaze up into the sky and study the planes passing far overhead. I renamed him Zorka, a loose variant of the Russian word for "he who has good vision." Zorka also means "dawn."

What a personality Zorka had! He was so full of life, and had such a confident swagger, that we envisioned him banging open the swinging doors of a Wild West saloon. He was an extremely happy boy, always wagging his tail in a most un-Borzoi-like fashion. He pulled us along on walks, seldom stopping to sniff, always intent on going forward---fast. We gave him nicknames: "Punky," "Mr. Personality," "young man in a hurry."

Six weeks after we bought him, I was at the Phoenix airport when my cell phone rang. It was our village police chief, saying "We have your dog." Punky had found a tiny hole in the bushes and escaped. We took him to obedience class, where he graduated in second place. However, there was only one other dog in the class. Well, at least he looked terribly cute in his mortarboard.

Zorka ruled our world, a force to be reckoned with. His rich black and white coloring, the Kiss of Allah atop his head, his intense gaze, strong musculature, and confident, manly bark defined him. Those eyes.....

He refused to drink water without ice cubes. He barked several times a day for them, keeping our commercial-grade ice machine busy. I scurried to comply with his demands---"All right, I'm coming!" then dumping a scoopful of cylindrical ice cubes into his metal water bowl, where they clanged merrily.

He barked at deliverymen. He barked at mailmen. He barked at anyone who came near the house, and was very proud of himself when they left---as they always did. We forgot what our doorbell sounded like.

All his life, Zorka suckled intently on stuffed toys, holding his "prey" tightly with his dewclaws. His favorite was a zebra striped pillow. When Vladimir destroyed it in 2010, Zorka switched to a pink shaggy dog. He carried toy hobby horses around the house, biting their ears to play western songs and make galloping sounds. He was always careful that the stick end didn't hit anything.

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