With a galumphing gait, J.R., for Just Right, does his best to keep up with 11-year-old Devon Harshman in an enclosure on Main Street in Waitsburg.
Although his parents are Great Pyrenees and Anatolian shepherd dogs that typically weigh around 85 to 100 pounds, J.R. barely moves the needle on the scales to 15 pounds.
When J.R. and his sister, Lillian, were rejected by their mother, the owner brought them to the Black Dog Rescue run by Marilyn and John Stellwagen at the Waitsburg Hardware and Mercantile.
Marilyn took the 1-pound pups to Mill Creek Veterinary Clinic, where they were determined to have dwarfism.
Besides small stature, J.R. was found to be lacking a hip socket, and Lillian also has some hip and joint issues.
Courtney Krebs, who worked as an assistant at the clinic, adopted J.R., then arranged with the Stellwagens to keep him while she completed her military training at Fort Jackson, S.C.
Devon and J.R. met when Devon came into the store and offered to help with the animals.
Tall and slender, Devon's poise belies her age. The Waitsburg fifth-grader first came into the store in late September, and has become an afternoon fixture in the hardware store, along with the regulars who gather for coffee and cookies on a daily basis.
Besides helping clean cat cages and walk J.R., Devon recruited other members of her 4-H club to raise money for the Black Dog Rescue, and particularly to help pay for J.R.'s veterinary bills.
Devon, along with Seamus and Tommy House and Kirsten Miller, collected cat and dog food and sold hot cocoa and cookies during Waitsburg's Hometown Christmas, raising $56.06.
If sports and other activities don't interfere, Devon is at the store right after school, and stays until her mother picks her up.
Since she began volunteering for the Rescue, Devon's remarkable patience and perseverance are traits much appreciated by the Stellwagens.
Besides providing J.R. almost daily exercise and encouragement, Devon was able to tame a litter of feral kittens at the fairgrounds horse stalls by sitting quietly nearby for long periods of time. Once they were over their fear, Marilyn and other volunteers could capture them and have them neutered and vaccinated before releasing some and putting others up for adoption.
Devon's tasks include tending to the cats awaiting adoption, and walking any dogs at the store, but "she's really taken a huge interest in J.R. She just showed up one day and wanted to volunteer," Marilyn said.
Devon is committed to helping J.R. be as fit as possible when Courtney returns in April, and she's proud of his accomplishments.
"He can actually go up and down the stairs now. He's actually pretty tough," she said.
When he first arrived at the Rescue "when he tried to walk, he just pulled his little legs behind him," Marilyn said.
"He runs pretty fast for a little disabled puppy," Devon said.
Carrie Chicken can be reached at email@example.com or 522-5289.