She's not into politics or any other spectator sport.

So she doesn't root for the Gamecocks, Tigers or Cougars, though she has shown interest in some Bulldogs.

Oops -- make that bulldogs.

Her past is cloudy.

But she's clearly not expecting any gifts today.

As for me, Christmas came nine weeks early this year.

That's because on Oct. 23, I went to the Charleston Animal Society shelter in North Charleston and picked out a new family member.

The acquisition of that dandy miniature dachshund mix came less than 24 hours after I finally obtained authorization for it via a unanimous vote of our family's supercommittee of two -- one husband plus one wife.

The latter's consent earned her naming rights. She dubbed the dog Coco.

It had been more than 2 1/2 years since the earthly demise of our beloved Maggie, a feisty terrier mutt we adopted from the old home of the CAS, then known as the John Ancrum SPCA, by the Charleston County Jail in July 1992. Our decision to "put her down" at the age of somewhere between 17 1/2 and 18 wasn't easy.

At and well beyond that devastating point, the thought of getting another dog wasn't easy, either.

But the familiar, emerging realization that life with a dog beats the heck out of life without one triggered my intense lobbying efforts to change my wife's mind about getting another one. The unanimous-vote prerequisite, enforced at my insistence, was based on a) fair play and b) the obvious need for a united family front when taking on such a major responsibility.

The cons of giving a canine a home in our two-person house (our eldest child moved out years ago; our youngest is a senior in a college more than 200 miles away), included:

1) Finding the time and money to spend with and on a dog, 2) the complications the newcomer would inevitably impose on travel plans, and 3) the inherent risks of what dogs chew and where and when they go to the bathroom.

Yet this single pro trumped, at least in this dog lover's view, those concerns:

A dog is "Man's Best Friend."

And once we got her, Coco rapidly became my wife's friend.

Somewhere between a year and a year and a half old, Coco is not a chewing threat. She "does her business" outside.

She comes when called.


Most of the time.

She's gleeful when our morning and evening walks accelerate into runs, with her four legs consistently outpacing my two much longer ones.

When loose of leash, she chases squirrels with deadly intent, at times bounding along with rabbit-like hops. Though she hasn't caught one of those rats with bushy tails yet, it appears bound to happen.

Hey, that's nature's way.

Coco also has an endearing habit of standing up on her hind legs.

So we got lucky when we got Coco, just as we got lucky when we got other dogs from the CAS.

Coco evidently believes she got lucky, too, when she moved into Stately Wooten Manor.

For lots of very good folks at the Charleston Animal Society, though, luck's now in short supply. A few days ago, the CAS Board revealed that high-level financial malfeasance occurred at the charitable enterprise.

But before wrongly assuming that the CAS has suddenly been exposed as unworthy of the donations that sustain it, focus keenly on the past tense of "occurred."

Focus on the board's commitment to righting this wrong.

Focus on the fact that the shelter's dogs, cats, rabbits, lizards and other critters didn't do anything wrong -- and neither did the people, including many volunteers, still working so hard to keep making the shelter such a grand success.

Focus on the Charleston Animal Society's encouraging 2011 statistical trends, including a rise in the "save rate" and a fall in the number of euthanizations.

Focus on the other animal-adoption facilities in our community, including Pet Helpers, that do wonderful work.

And yes, focus on that picture of the amazing Coco rising to the occasion.