Let me tell you about our dog, Brandy. Brandy was a laborador/golden retriever mix. We adopted her from a shelter when she was 6 months old. She was always with us … our child … and a priceless gift from God. We always felt that she somehow knew we ‘saved’ her from who-knows-what on the streets.

When Brandy was 6 years old, my husband was diagnosed with a rare disorder that left him permanently paralyzed from the chest down, and in a wheelchair. During his 3 months in the rehab center, we wondered how Brandy would eventually react to the wheelchair when he came home. We needn’t have worried. I was able to take her to visit him in the rehab center. When she saw him (for the first time in about 6 weeks), she jumped on him with such force and enthusiasm that we thought she would knock his wheelchair over. The chair didn’t matter … all that mattered to her was that she was able to see him again. When he eventually returned home, she was the best companion and protector for him than we could have ever wanted. Needless to say, she was a priceless companion and support to me for the three months my husband was not at home.

Four years later, Brandy was diagnosed with a neurological disorder that left her unable to walk, and caused other medical complications. As uncomfortable as she was, she insisted on sitting by my husband’s side and ‘helping’ him as best as she could. As time passed and it became clear that it was not fair to ask Brandy to continue in her current state, we went through a month-long process of grieving and saying good-bye, with her by our side. Her final trip to the vet required that she be carried in on a stretcher, where our vet confirmed that there was nothing more that could be done, and that she had no quality of life left. Saying that final goodbye was one of the most heart-wrenching things that we have ever had to go through, but we would not have wanted her final minutes to be without us.

During Brandy’s life (because of the gifts she had given us as a “mutt”), we decided that we would never go to a puppy store or a breeder when the time came to get another dog. Shelter dogs would be the only kind acceptable in our family.

About 6 weeks after Brandy’s death, we adopted two 6-month-old dachshund-mix puppies. They are a wonderful addition to our family, and we already can’t imagine life without them. They have already helped immeasurably in our lives.

Yesterday, I learned that my cousin and her daughter were killed by my cousin’s estranged husband, who then committed suicide. As heartbreaking as this news is … our pups have already helped to lighten the burden on our hearts, simply by being their bouncy and joyful selves.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share our story with you and others.

Kris from New Jersey