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Alan NeSmith: Pink is her favorite color
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I was sitting in front of the fireplace Wednesday night when she put her head on my shoulder. Staring at the hanging stockings, in a peaceful moment, I thought of something: This is going to be our fifth Christmas together.

Im happy to have her company, especially when my family is out of town. Our relationship has not always been this strong. In fact, it was quite strained in the beginning.

You see, Im a dog person to the core. It is a rare occasion when I go anywhere without my 11-year-old yellow lab, Whaley. She is my constant companion.

Basset hound. Walker hound. American bulldog. English pointer. German shorthair. English setter. Rat terrier. Catahoula leopard. Boston terrier. Blue heeler.

Through the years, Ive owned quite a few breeds of dogs and several types of mix breeds, but never a frou-frou animal. My four-legged friends have always been dogs that liked to chase or retrieve game in the woods. Theyve been sidekicks with a purpose in life besides lying around begging for a belly rub.

And then I got married. My dowry weighed in at 8.5 pounds, had a full wardrobe, basket of toys, suitcase and likes to sleep in the bed. I have to admit there was a little tension those first few months.

Isabella Bouveir Hammond NeSmith.

Her name weighs more than she does. We call her Bella or, with great affection, Boo-Boo. Bella, a toy poodle and Maltese mix, even came to the marriage with a hot pink life jacket. Frankly, the only dealings Id ever had with small dressed-up dogs was seeing pictures growing up of my Great Aunt Lillys poodles. Aunt Lilly and her poodles lived in Orlando, Fla., and that was close enough for me. Never, ever did I actually think of feeding one, but love knows no boundaries.

Is it awkward owning a little dressed-up dog? Yes, sometimes. But it was more than awkward in the beginning. It was hard. Especially in certain situations, like around the boat ramp, at the hardware store and the service station. If you want to draw the amused attention and chuckles of crusty fishermen, just hold close to you a Maltipoo in a hot-pink life jacket while launching your boat.

Actually, I have gotten very close to the little animal, and we even go on walks. Thinking back, it was on a walk when we first bonded. Walking out of the neighborhood we were living in at the time, I noticed a gentleman with a big boxer strolling down the sidewalk. A large hedge had blocked the gentlemans view when I alerted him to take caution, because my animal was vicious. He quickly snatched his muscle-bound brute to the edge of the curb. Then Bella and I rounded the corner, and the man and I both burst into laughter.

Nothing happens in our yard or house without gaining Bellas attention. So that makes her a great mobile security system. And she does make good company. So, I guess, Bella really does earn her biscuits.

But, beware! The feisty little girl, sporting a pink sweater, can be dangerous.

Alan NeSmith is publisher of The Northeast Georgian and regional publisher for Community Newspapers, Inc.