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Dad waits all night outside shelter to adopt dog for son

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FREDERICKSBURG, Va. — It was puppy love at first sight for Robert Lucas III. The preschooler fell in love with a small, silky terrier he saw at the Spotsylvania Animal Shelter.

"He made it known that that was the dog he wanted and he didn't want any other dog," said his father, Robert Lucas Jr.

He tried to interest the young boy in other furry friends at the shelter. But little Robert wouldn't hear of it. He would play only with Gibbs.

His persistence presented a problem for his parents, who were determined to get a dog for the young boy's 5th birthday. They stopped by the shelter a few days before Gibbs would be available for adoption. And shelter workers told the family that several other people had expressed interest in the butterscotch-and-chocolate-colored dog.

The shelter allows dogs to be adopted on a first come, first served basis on the day they become available. Dogs become available about a week after they enter the shelter, to allow original owners time to reclaim them.

Little Robert's parents worried they wouldn't be able to get the popular pup. So Lucas hatched a plan: He would get to the shelter very early — a little after midnight — on Feb. 7.

But as he put his son to bed the night before, he wondered if that would be early enough. So he left their Spotsylvania County home early, and reached the parking lot at 11 p.m. He stayed in his car until the shelter opened at 8 a.m.

Such devotion isn't unheard of in local shelters with first come, first served policies.

"If we have a froufrou dog, one that everyone wants, it actually happens quite often," said Donna Shepherd, front desk clerk with the Spotsylvania Animal Shelter.

Smaller dogs tend to be more popular, said Mike Null, animal control officer for Stafford County. Many local residents live in apartments or townhomes, where there is a weight limit for dogs, he said.

But he's had hopeful adoptees line up for dogs of all sizes.

"It's not uncommon for us to open the gate at 6:30 or 7 in the morning and see someone waiting," Null said.

And for Lucas, the long wait ended in triumph. He was the first one on the scene and got to bring Gibbs back home, where young Robert waited to greet his new furry friend.

Gibbs and Robert met like old friends, and immediately started playing together, Lucas said. The family kept the dog's name, which they assume is a nod to the television show "NCIS" and its main character named Gibbs.

Robert's toddler sister is also enamored of Gibbs, but the youngest family member— an infant sister— can't seem to figure out what the fuss is all about.

But there's no doubting her older brother's affection for the pup. Nearly a month after Gibbs joined the family, Robert is still devoted to his new sidekick.

It's a puppy love that was worth a stiff neck and a few hours in a car, Lucas said.

"I don't regret one second of it," Lucas said. "From the time my son wakes up to the time he goes to bed, he's talking about the dog. He's very excited to have him, and he's his new best friend. They are inseparable."

Information from: The Free Lance-Star, http://www.fredericksburg.com/