I think I’m a pretty tough-minded guy. In my books and short stories I write about hard boiled characters facing some pretty harsh situations. Mordecai Slate, for example, takes on creatures that are the embodiment of evil. He often stands face-to-face with terrifying monsters that would make the average man collapse in fear. But not even Slate ever faced the hideous face of death as coolly and bravely as a dog named Oscar did on Sunday April 6.

Oscar was my daughter Lisa’s four-year old Morkie terrier. He was only 9 pounds, a ball of fluff that brought delight to my daughter and her two sons and, in fact, the entire family. He was small but he was feisty and protective of his family. And when a large pitbull ran toward them from a house down the street, he stood squarely in front of Lisa as the Pitbull ran up to them. The bull sniffed his face for a few seconds. My daughter froze in terror, praying nothing would happen but in the next instant the Pitbull had Oscar by the throat, and began the horrendous process of eating him alive. I won’t go into the gory details, but needless to say my daughter was severely traumatized. A neighbor came to the rescue and chased the damned hound away. But too late to save Oscar who was already lying on the ground torn apart. He died an hour later at an animal hospital.

He belonged to my daughter and grandsons, but Oscar stayed in our house quite often, sometimes for a week at a time. I used to take him on long walks in the woods and around Lake Accotink. It was a regular routine. As soon as I’d get up in the morning, he’d follow me around until I took a shower and put my shoes on. Then he’d start trying to talk to me. Making odd vocal sounds, as if saying, “Okay. Let’s go.” All you had to say was the word “walk” and his face would light up and he’d run for the door.

Later in the afternoon, I’d be up in my office tapping the keys, trying to put a story into words, and he’d sit outside my office, waiting to see if I was going to go out again. Sometime I’d go down to the living room and play the electric piano or the acoustic guitar down there, and he’d lie nearby on the soft carpet, listening. Or maybe just falling asleep. He seemed to like the music, although he hated the sound of a harmonica. He’d run out of the room if I played it. Sometimes I teased him with it.

But now when I go down to the living room and sit at the keyboard, or pick up the guitar and try to play something, I just can’t. Oscar’s not there.

Real tough-minded.