James Van Der Bark is no stranger to love.
His mom is a Minnesota-based veterinary student who, over the years, estimates she's provided a temporary home for some 250 puppies and kittens.
These guest stars have all been warmly welcomed by her pup, handsome 2-year-old Mr. Van Der Bark. Mr. Van Der Bark also answers to James VDB and Dawgson. (The Dawgson
is also permitted, if definite articles
are your bag).
But James's love for the newest critter on the scene -- an 8-week-old partially deaf and blind pittie pup named Valentino -- has set the dog's heart aflutter like none other.
And it's super mutual.
"Since they were introduced, Valentino has followed James around constantly," says Kaitlin, the hooman of the household, who asked to be identified only by her first name. "They haven't done much without one another."
James is the brains of the operation. His days are largely occupied with thinking through problems, like how to open kitchen cupboards.
"This makes life more challenging, but also fun. He is very kind with animals and people," Kaitlin says.
Valentino is more of an id-driven personality, who appropriately has a cute little heart on his nose.
"He is either super excited and bouncing around, or snuggled as close as he can to the nearest dog or person," says Kaitlin -- adding that the pup is starting to learn that if he can keep his enthusiasm the slightest bit in check, it will lead to more treats.
Like so many of history's great love affairs, James and Valentino's time together comes with an expiration date.
Valentino has some upcoming appointments at the local veterinary school for a full workup -- neurological, hearing, and vision tests -- so that the full extent of his needs will be known.
After that, little V "will be on our website
, as well as an application to adopt," says Kaitlin.
It's a happy ending. Really.
"Having a foster who is in the veterinary world and who also happens to have an amazing well balanced and socialized dog like James Van Der Bark is like magic for me," says Emily Randolph, vice president of Fur-Ever Home Rescue
, the group that Kaitlin fosters through. "Fostering is one of the most important pieces of rescue."
And sure, Kaitlin is tempted to keep Valentino. Who wouldn't be? After all, the heart wants what the heart wants, and what the heart wants is a pittie puppy with a heart-shaped marking on his nose. However, she knows if she doesn't it's a happy ending as well. As she says:
"But I know that once he finds his forever family there will be another animal needing my help. So as much as I would love to, I won't."
Plus, it's not like a leading man like James Van Der Bark is going to stay single for long. And then it'll be be Dawwww-son's Creek all over again*.
* Dawson's Creek is a famous TV show from the late 90s, early 2000s, starring a human actor named James Van Der Beek, among others. Maybe just go back and read the story again now, if you didn't already know this.
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And get in touch at [email protected] if you know a special dog you think we should write about!