Dear Mark,

Ken Kersten, my childhood best friend, pal of 50 years and father of 12, sent me your book last week. He heard about you and Sprite while listening to Rush Limbaugh’s show. Ken said your story reminded him of us and our beloved companion Paco (like “taco”).

Paco was a Lhasa Apso with a “haircut and an attitude”, handsome, and loyal to a fault (see attachment).

There is nothing like the bond we shared. We were graced by Paco’s presence for nearly 19 years. The joy he brought into our lives was immeasurable and I am still devastated by his passing. As we have no children, he was “our boy”.

There are so many stories I’d love to tell, but I still have great difficulty in speaking about him. He was a “real” dog in the best sense of the word, but he had a few quirks. Everywhere he was became his domain, though he was a gracious guest. He had a Napoleon complex highlighted by a bark of a dog three times his size. He was stubborn (another story) and fearless to the point of stupidity. Thank God the real “big dogs” (German Shepards, Doberman’s, etc.) didn’t accept his challenges. At 18.5lbs, the odds weren’t in his favor.

He was amazingly strong for a small dog. He ran like the wind and was particularly nutty after he got a bath. He would shake, jump, slide, fly (you had to see it), dragging his ears across the carpet, bed sheets and couch pillows. It truly was a sight to behold and often hysterically amusing. Sometimes he’d slip and bounce off the couch or bed. Undeterred, he would attain that goal and the furnishings would get a work out. Yet he was a gift of lessons—to the very end (many other stories). Hopefully, I’ve learned a few. His was a life shared and lived to full measure.

He loved to travel and every night he and I went for “rides” in the car along the side of a nearby lake. En route, his head stuck out the window, catching the wind, so much like Sprite. However, Paco was always “on duty”. To him, approaching vehicles were charging enemies and let them know to “stay away”. He was a dog on a mission, ever the protector. There was another side too. It was the warm and gentle, happy-go-lucky Paco, the one with whom we spent the majority of our time, always nearby (especially when I was eating). He spent many years accompanying my wife Laura as she provided homecare to the elderly. They loved having their “little guy” to keep them company. He would lay at their feet, by their side, or keep vigil by the window or door. They loved him and he seemed to know it. As my sister Susie would say, “it was all good”.

In late September of 2006 Paco was diagnosed with cancer of the mouth and given only 2 to 9 months to live. We really crammed in every moment. Before he took “the turn”, we contacted Peggy, our vet. By her skill and grace, Paco passed peacefully in my arms, on his pillow, in the family room of his home (still another story), with his mom and the greatest caregiver one could ever have, at his side. That’s all we could do. With dignity, our gift was returned to God.

I related to so much about your feelings for Sprite. When you discussed the guilt you felt at taking his life, well… I’m still working through it. That was the most difficult decision I’ve ever made, as right as it was.

Today, I contemplate Paco’s life, mine and the journey ahead. Laura spends many of her off hours at “Helping Paws”, a “no-kill” animal shelter nearby. She does to cope with her loss.

Thank you for reminding me that we not alone in our sorrow and not to lose sight of the joy and precious gift we received. One day we’ll have a Griffen, it just may take me awhile. I’m delighted that Pepsi has a new companion. Maybe he’ll tell Griffen about his dear pal Sprite.

In loving memory of Paco (12/19/1987-11/19/2006).

God bless you and yours and Happy Hannukah.

Mike from IL