You can think of Lexi as a lucky dog.
Then again, you can also think of Lexi's master, Chip Hershey, as a lucky person.
"She's a diva," the tall, gray-haired employee of CS Kern Inc. said with a grin one recent evening, as his beloved dog, which is mostly black with white markings and a pale tan muzzle, ran across the lawn of his lakeside home, chasing plastic discs. "When we get in front of a crowd, she jumps a little higher, runs a little faster."
To be sure, watching them together is a joy.
Charging through a smattering of leaves, the Texas heeler -- an energetic mix of Australian collie and border collie -- chases down and catches floating discs that would seem to be impossibly far ahead of her.
When Hershey bends over, she hops onto his back.
As he lies down with his feet apart, she jumps the length of his torso to snag a disc, jumps over his back to pluck another from mid-air as he kneels on the ground, then takes yet another from his mouth as he stands to his full height.
Watching, an observer has to laugh. After nearly nine years together, even Hershey still has to laugh.
"Can you believe," he said, with an admiring look at his dog, "that nobody wanted her?"
Match made in heaven
It was in 2001 that Hershey and his wife, Teresa, were forced to put down a favorite dog of theirs. By the following year they had agreed to adopt an acquaintance's puppy, took it home for a weekend, but were alarmed by how it acted. Rushed to treatment, it died of parvo on the way to the veterinarian's office, a heart-wrenching experience for both of them.
It was the very next day, however, when Hershey opened his copy of The Star Press to the Pet of the Week feature, encountering a picture of an adorable eight-week-old puppy. Visiting ARF the next day, Teresa found a whole litter of such puppies, but the one from the newspaper photograph stood out.
"This one dog just kept coming back to her and back to her," Hershey recalled.
Thus, did Lexi become a member of the family.
From the start, one thing was obvious: Much to Hershey's delight, Lexi's favorite toy was a floppy cloth disc.
"In the back of my mind, I always wanted a Frisbee dog," he admitted, noting he began throwing discs to her every night, at the same time joining the Indy Dog and Disc Club - of which he would eventually become president.
Having won her very first amateur competition, the two were soon traveling as far as Florida to compete, qualifying for the U.S. Disc Dog Nationals in Louisville in 2005 and the even more prestigious Skyhoundz World Championships in Atlanta in 2006.
In effect, she made her mark as a disc dog in those contests. These days, in deference to her advancing years, Hershey has dialed her back to occasional, and far less rigorous, shows for charities, schools etc.
"I'm just out there to play, have fun and show off my dog," he explained.
Some trying times
Eventually, Teresa tired of watching her husband and Lexi have all the fun. The Hersheys acquired two more dogs for her, Bear and Gripper, an Australian shepherd and border collie, and began competing.
It was last December when Teresa began showing symptoms of heart disease, underwent treatment, but nevertheless died in their rural home in March, despite her husband's best efforts at CPR. They had been married 20 years.
Just four months later, returning home from work, Hershey opened the door to his attached garage and was greeted with thick, billowing smoke, the result of a fire caused by a malfunctioning dehumidifier. The smoke killed both Bear and Gripper, who had been in the basement.
"I'm screaming for her," Hershey recalled, of dashing into the house in a panic. Then through the smoke he saw the white tip of a tail coming down a stairway, and knew Lexi, who had been kept upstairs, was OK.
"If something had happened to her," he said, gratefully, "I don't know how I'd be right now."
While his house was being repaired, Hershey moved in with his mother-in-law, plus did something else that he hadn't normally done before.
He bought some lottery tickets.
"I knew my luck had to change," he said.
He also began accessing the Hoosier Lottery's website to check the fate of his numbers, and was doing so when he learned of a new game coming in December called Lucky Dog. What's more, lottery officials were looking for photogenic dogs whose portraits would grace the tickets.
"Why not?" thought Hershey, who was one of 7,000 Hoosiers to submit dog photos.
As for Lexi, she was one of just 20 dogs chosen to be pictured.
Discussing it, Hershey laughs about the gift basket of dog toys that arrived, by way of congratulations, from the Hoosier Lottery. Mostly, though, he revels in the dog that was asleep at his feet on this chilly November evening, in a dark and quiet house shared by the two of them.
"We really rely on each other now," Hershey said, thoughtfully, of his best friend. "She is my comfort, and I'm her comfort, now that everybody's gone."