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Best Friends, For Life

The scruffy little dog arrived alone in a taxicab.

The cabbie opened the car door,and the dog scampered into the arms of a stick figure of a man who had been sitting for half an hour, waiting.

For Bill Drifmeyer, 78, seeing his dog made life worth living. "If I didn't have him here, I'd go goofy," he said Thursday as his pet lay panting beneath his chair. Drifmeyer had a pack of Basics in his shirt pocket, and one burning between his fingers. No point in quitting now.

Most dog stories end the same way: The dog dies, leaving the owner bereft. This one is different.

Is there anyone out there who will take in a heartbroken dog?

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Let's get this over with right now, because it really isn't the most important thing. Still, you need to know.

The dog's name is Trouble.

The story begins on Jan. 28, when Bill Drifmeyer was admitted to Hospice House Woodside. The place is not a house at all. It's a sprawling, hospital-like building where dying people can spend their last days walking in a garden, listening to music (a bluegrass band performs on Thursdays), eating good food and smoking cigarettes if they feel like it.

Drifmeyer, a retired bus driver, has felt like it for the past six decades, which is why he's here. A native of Cincinnati, he moved to Pinellas County 33 years ago. His most recent address was Palm Harbor; before that he lived in Clearwater.

When he moved into Hospice House Woodside, he left behind his wife, Edna, who is frail, and his dog, Trouble, a gentle but fiercely loyal mixed breed. The 30-pound dog already had the name _ nobody knew why _ when a friend rescued him from the pound and gave him to Drifmeyer for Christmas three years ago.

Edna wasn't well enough to go see Drifmeyer after he left home, but Trouble was. On Feb. 8, the dog showed up at Hospice House Woodside _ in a taxi. Drifmeyer paid the fare, about $21.