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The Magnificent Oliver!
My name is Lucy, and I have a secret. A big, floppy-eared, tail-wagging secret. His name is Oliver, and he's a Great Dane. But don't let the name fool you; he's not just great, he's magnificent. Oliver is as tall as a small horse and has spots like a Dalmatian, only bigger and fewer. He's got a heart as big as the sky, and I think he knows everything there is to know about love.

Mama says Oliver is too big for our small house, but I say our house is too small for such a big love. Daddy laughs and says, "That dog's got more room in his heart than we've got in this whole place." And it's true. Oliver's love fills up every corner, every nook and cranny.

Oliver came to us last summer. He was a stray, wandering around our neighborhood, looking lost and lonely. Mama said we couldn't keep him. Daddy said we should at least give him some water. I said he looked like he needed a friend. So, we all agreed to let him stay for just one night. But one night turned into two, and two nights turned into a week, and before we knew it, Oliver was family.

He sleeps at the foot of my bed, and sometimes, when the night is dark and full of noises, he climbs up and lays next to me. He's too big for my bed, but we make it work. We always do. Oliver makes everything work.

I talk to Oliver about everything: school, friends, my dreams, and my fears. I tell him about how Jenny at school won't talk to me anymore because I'm not "cool" enough. Oliver listens, his big brown eyes looking into mine, as if saying, "You're cool enough for me, Lucy."

When Grandma got sick last winter and had to go to the hospital, I told Oliver before I told anyone else. I whispered my worries into his soft, floppy ears, and it felt like he took some of that heavy worry away, just by listening.

Oliver loves to run. On Saturdays, we go to the park, and I unclip his leash, and he runs like the wind. He runs so fast that his spots blur into streaks. He runs as if he's trying to catch something that's always just a little bit out of reach. But when I call his name, he comes bounding back to me, as if to say, "Did you see me, Lucy? Did you see how fast I can go?"

I think Oliver runs to remind himself that he's free, that he's not lost anymore. And maybe, just maybe, he runs to remind me, too.

Last month, Oliver got sick. The vet said it was something called "bloat," and it was serious. I didn't fully understand what it meant, but I understood the look on Mama and Daddy's faces. I understood that Oliver might have to go away, to a place where I couldn't follow.

I sat by Oliver's side at the vet's office, holding his big paw in my small hand. I whispered into his ear, "You have to get better, Oliver. You have to come back home." And as if he understood, Oliver looked at me with those big, brown eyes, and for a moment, he seemed to say, "I'll try, Lucy. For you, I'll try.”

Oliver did come back home. The vet said it was a miracle. Mama said it was luck. Daddy said it was love. I think it was all of those things, mixed together in some magical way that only Oliver understands.

So here we are, me and Oliver, a girl and her Great Dane. We're an odd pair, but somehow, we fit. We fit in a way that's hard to explain but easy to feel. Oliver is my secret, my friend, my family. And I am his.

And that's not just great. That's magnificent!

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