Two copies of Rescuing Sprite arrived yesterday from Amazon.com. How ironic that I started reading it on December 7. I finished it today and had to keep the tissues handy. Harley was my family’s beloved dog who also had to be put to sleep. What a love sponge he was! And he returned love showers. Harley was a tricolor Cavalier King Charles Spaniel that we bought from a breeder in Fredericksburg, VA. My husband “hated” dogs. He’d been bitten several times and chased repeatedly as a long-distance bicyclist. Good friends, Betsy & Lou, who live in a Philadelphia suburb, had a CKCS when we visited them one day in 1988. For a few years, our daughter and son had begged us for a dog and Dad would always say “No.” When we left Betsy & Lou’s house that day, Tim said, “I wouldn’t mind a dog like that.” Well, it didn’t take long to kick into action.

The next morning, I called Betsy to ask for the breeder’s name and number. I called her and the rest is history. We all loved Harley deeply. I could write a book, too. Neighbors with children fell in love with him because he was so gentle with children. Many would say, “When it’s time to get a dog it will be a CKCS.” (Yes, I later learned that Ronald & Nancy Reagan had a Blenhem CKCS.) After 11 years of walking, loving, brushing, holding him on our laps, he came down with a dreadful disease. The vet never quite diagnosed it, but Harley lost his sight, hearing, sense of smell, ability to walk (after also walking in circles aimlessly for weeks); he stopped eating & drinking and the inevitable decision had to made. It was merciful. I would have wanted someone to take me out of misery had I been in that state. It was the loving thing to do.

Tim & I were with Harley at the Vet’s when it was time. As broken up as I was (I was the groomer in the family–I bathed and brushed him once a month), Tim was almost inconsolable. Harley turned a dog “hater” (fear is really what it was) into a dog lover and now he was leaving us. The children, lucky for them, had already graduated from college and lived in Atlanta & LA, and so, as much as they loved him, they had already separated from Harley. They still miss him too.

BTW my daughter is one of those special people who spends her Sunday afternoons (and more hours at meetings and fundraisers) helping a Small Dog Rescue organization in Atlanta adopt out dogs. She has a rescued dog, Nicky, who is old now. I bought her a copy of your book in the hopes it will help her if and when she also needs to make that fateful decision to end a precious life whose life really is no more but for breathing and suffering.

Dogs are the best listeners. They are always there for you. They never hold a grudge and repay any attention given to them a hundredfold. They pay attention even when you’re not aware of it. I cook a lot, at least 6 nights a week, and often, as I chop or move ingredients, something will fall to the floor (also wood, like yours). Harley slept in front of the TV on a dog bed in the family room which is contiguous with the kitchen. One night, something fell and I said “S**t”. Harley rose from a dead sleep and raced to where I stood and scouped up the food! I laughed and laughed. Little did I know that every time I said that word, Harley knew I’d dropped something. Harley had more fun than Pavlov’s dogs, without training.

After after a few years of walking, brushing, and feeding Harley everyday, taking him to the Vet, bathing him every month, I was beginning to think I was picking up too much of the load. One afternoon, Heather, our daughter, came home from high school looking glum. I asked if everything was okay. She said yes. Then, she went to the family room and dropped her book bag. There Harley greeted her with tail wagging, jumping up with delight, licking her face, looking into her eyes, and Heather remarked: “At least someone loves me.” And she returned his affection. I never complained again, even silently, after that. He was worth any sacrifice I might make knowing that he meant so much to my family.

Well, Mark, I could go on and on. There’s the loss of my dog Skipper who was hit by a car and died in my arms while a parade was going by when I was 12 or so. I learned then that my sadness does not affect the rest of the world. I thought, “How can anybody smile or make music when Skipper’s just died?” Mark, you touched a chord with millions of us who will never forget our beloved pets. We may each grieve privately, but we understand exactly what you and others are feeling when a pet dies. Another lesson I learned is: Life marches on. We pick up the pieces and carry on.

Thanks for the book and, though late, condolences to you, Kendall (you’ve got a great wife), and children (also special).

Mary from NJ