Each February, we gather in front of our television to watch the annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. It’s one of our most anticipated events of the year.

Last year, I remember the announcers talking about how some pets will adopt a family’s children. Immediately, a faithful old friend came to mind. Her name was Freckles. She was a German shorthair pointer, who came to our family as a pup. Although she was to be an outdoor pet, she soon took over the house.

Freckles had just one litter of pups, but she did it right. She gave birth to an even dozen and managed to keep all of them healthy. It was a sight to behold as she delegated out rations to each of her fur balls.

After her experience with the pups, Freckles definitely became a mother figure. She guarded my son and daughter like they were her own.

Although Freckles was always warm and friendly, before her litter she kept to herself at night. After the pups were gone, she no longer liked to sleep alone. So every night she’d sneak into one of the kids’ rooms to spend the night. It was like having a live-in four-legged nanny.

For several years the kids enjoyed their constant home companion. I’m sure there were times they picked on her, but she never lost her faithfulness to them.

Of course, being a surrogate mother wasn’t Freckles’ only job. She was also the official guard dog at both our home and office. No one entered or left the premises without being sniffed over by Freckles. Usually that would suffice, but now and then a lick would follow the sniffing.

Freckles also liked to go out into the woods with the family. She was always out in front, making certain no vicious wild animals were waiting. One day we were in a public area over by the Des Moines River near Madrid. Suddenly she was caught by the leg in a steel trap. The trap had evidently been placed there by someone completely lacking in intelligence. It was in an area readily accessible to children and pets and baited with a piece of meat.

While I was trying to get the trap loose, Freckles’ pain was so intense she bit at me. I finally got the job done, and aside from a very sore leg, she seemed okay.

I wrapped her in my jacket and carried her back to the station wagon. As I bent over to place her inside, she gave me one of the wettest kisses I’ve ever received. I know to this day that it was her way of saying “I’m sorry.”

Freckles has been gone for many years. When she died, it was like losing a member of the family – because she was.

Maybe that’s the reason Sharon and I enjoy viewing the Westminster Dog Show so much. We can’t help but think about all the joy the dogs bring to people’s lives!

Ed Rood is the former publisher of the Tri-County Times. He and his wife, Sharon, live near Cambridge.