This afternoon, I lost the best friend I’ve ever had.

In June of 1998, I walked into my parents’ living room with what my dad referred to as “a little ol’ double-handful of dog.”

That little ol’ double-handful of dog grew into a hilarious, exasperating, adorable, maddening, willful, clever, disobedient, and utterly brilliant rat terrier who would spend the next 10 years and nine months by my side (or, more often, somewhere behind or ahead of me, sniffing something interesting or barking at a stranger).

During that time, Scout had her own business card …


… discovered the magic that is Ted Drewes’ Frozen Custard …


… stood on a corner in Winslow, Arizona …


… ate dead chicken and cheeseburgers with cheese at the Snow-Cap …


… and, through her Web site, became a kind of unofficial four-legged ambassador for Route 66.


Scout drove me crazy. She could be hard-headed beyond belief, and she went through about a three-year phase in which she solved all her problems with her teeth. My standard line, when anyone asked about her, was, “I wouldn’t wish her on my worst enemy, but I wouldn’t trade her for anything, either.”

And I wouldn’t.

The common belief is that Scout was a dog. This is a misconception. In point of fact, Scout was a very short person in a fur coat.

She is the only dog I have ever known who had sense enough to use her paw to extract peanut butter from the bottom of a jar. She’s the only dog I’ve ever seen watch a greyhound run and then copy his movements in an attempt to improve her own technique. And she’s the only dog I’ve ever known who recognized the sound of the ice-cream truck (and wouldn’t look at me all afternoon if I let it go by without dashing out to buy something nice for her).

Last November, Scout went to the vet to have her teeth cleaned. She came home with a scary diagnosis. She — and we — spent the next three and a half months fighting it, but she slipped away from us this afternoon.

On a bright morning not many days from now, we will take her on one final road trip down Route 66. At the end of our journey, we will climb a certain mesa overlooking a certain town, and we will let the high desert wind carry her ashes out into the New Mexico sky and over the road where we had so many adventures together.

Travel well, little Monster. Stay out of the cockleburs. And be careful with my heart. You’re carrying most of it with you. Try not to make a chew toy out of it, hey?