Walking down Lobsterville Beach with my dog, I’m asked the obligatory questions: “How old? Her name? What kind?”

And then my reply, which shouldn’t be a surprise for in 2022 the most fashionable dog doesn’t sport a pedigree but a verb: rescue.

It’s easier with a purebred: a beagle, a poodle, a pug, all bespeaking distinguished lineages, often appearing with quaint names like Rumsey, Dithery Doo and Lindsay of Chamberlin. Makes you wonder what ever happened to Champ, Rusty and Bowser?

Acknowledging your dog is a rescue, however, is more nuanced than simply declaring its breed or mix. The act of explaining how it came to end up at the end of a leash suggests that its owner is a certain kind of master, benevolent and caring.

With most rescues the back story becomes the hook or, rather, the leash. My own rescue was discovered in a forest in Tennessee. “All skin and bones with five puppies.” I have shared her tale hundreds of times, often on the beach, which seems to be a rescue dog Mecca, and it never fails to get a sympathetic reply.

Rescue dog. By omitting the noun “dog,” we retain the word “rescue,” which can either be a noun, verb or adjective. We expect the questioner to know what a rescue is and to recognize just how noble and benevolent its master is. It’s not that we were searching for that puppy that showed up at our door, but that somehow fate stepped in and we’re the anointed one, offered the chance to be heroic.

Let’s pay tribute to the most intrepid rescuer of our time. Kitty Hawks, Howard’s daughter, was driving along the Major Deegan Expressway in New York when she spotted a dog running down the center lane. She slammed on her brakes, pulled over to the side of the road and lured him into her car. She named him, what else, Major Deegan. In their family portrait he still looks dazed by it all.

Would the story be any different if Kitty had gotten him tested after the rescue; if she had sent a swab to a lab like Embark or Paw Print Genetics and discovered he was 98 per cent Pomeranian or 17 per cent Affenpinscher, if he was one of 350 registered breeds.

Rescues can be full of surprises. Take my friend Dick Stein, who discovered Nipper in a trash can behind a Chinese restaurant. Who would have guessed that Nippy’s floppy ears would later stand up or that he would develop white spots on his tail?

Rescues speak to us in more profound ways than bow-wows or arfs. We’ll never really know their stories, though we’re inclined to fill in the gaps. How lucky we are. These creatures, great and small, remind us how much poetry there is in mystery.

Ted Sutton is a seasonal resident of Aquinnah.