As I made my way down the aisle separating the  cages in the animal shelter, all the dogs barked or snarled at the hollow clang my crutches made on the cold concrete. All, that is. except for one smallish black and tan mutt in a cage with his brother. While his brother cowered and barked from the back of the cage, this compelling face (what would come to be known as a \’boo-boo\’ face) sat eagerly at the cage door wagging his tail. I could swear he was smiling at me as if to say, \”Your search is over and here I am!\” While my husband and kids continued to search for our prospective pet, I stopped by his cage and impulsively decided that HE was the one. That fateful decision began fourteen years of a love affair that continues two years after we lost him.

He was already named \’Comet\’ by the shelter staff and we kept it. We brought home this six month old beagle-Lab mix who promptly adopted a bean bag chair as his bed and didn\’t miss a meal from day one. Over the next few months as he grew out of his mischieveous puppy phase, we shelled out several hundred dollars for various neighborhood kids\’ sneakers and boots and a television remote chewed beyond repair. Over the years, he became legendary for stealing food: a sandwich from my nervous sister-in-law, five pounds of Easter candy from my daughter\’s basket and never got sick, two pounds of ground meat in the wrapper from the sink and a package of kielbasa he sneaked to the basement. Comet became the mascot of my daughter\’s softball team for all seven years that she played. He would wear the team colors on a scarf I fashioned and sat in the bleachers looking for snacks and affection from any nearby spectators. As time went on, his celebrity grew on our town of more than 25,000. People who met him fell in love with him almost instantly when they sensed his gentle, loving nature.

He loved everybody, human and animal alike. Anytime a neighbor child brought over a new kitten, boa constrictor, bunny or cockatoo to show our animal-loving family, Comet was front and center, trying to sniff and eye the newcomer. We never worried that he would harm any creature; he only wanted to be near them. When we visited the vet, he would go immediately to the big fish tank in the waiting room and plop down to watch the fish. It was hard to tear him away! At Petsmart, he would want to go to the small animal section to look at the rats and hamsters and he genuinely seemd to enjoy them.

He  had a way of knowing when someone was sad or not feeling well. He would never criticize, lecture or say \’I told you so\’; instead he simply laid his precious head in one\’s lap and suddenly things seemed a bit better.

He loved nothing better than riding in the car and an especially memorable trip to Gettysberg was his favorite. With our 15 yr.old son and 6 yr.old daughter in tow, he climbed every hill and rock they could find and my best memory is of the three of them smiling from atop a tower at Little Round Top. He was so proud.

He loved to go from NJ to Grandmom and Grandpop\’s house in PA for every holiday. The second we reached the bridge over the Delaware River, about 20 miles from their house, he would stand up and begin to whine and wag his tail. He knew that we were almost there! Once there, he latched onto Grandmom, whom he adored and followed her around the rest of day. My mom loved him as well and they were wonderful friends!

The years went by too qucikly and suddenly, Comet\’s beautiful tan face was white. He slowed down and it got harder to get into the car. We rigged up some wooden steps to help him into the car until he couldn\’t climb anymore.One day, two years ago, we noticed that he seemd to be breathing harder than usual. WE took him to the vet who conducted some tests and sent us home to await the results. By five pm, I knew he was getting worse. By 10pm, he went to lay down next to my bed.  Something told me to follow and I went to sit next to him. Suddenly, he looked at me as if to say, \’Mom, something\’s wrong\’. I lay my hands on him to comfort him and told him it was OK to go if he had to. He thrashed for a few moments and was still. Our precious little guy was gone and none of us could believe it. Although our friends and family showered us with cards and comforting words and the vet and his staff who loved Comet were heartbroken when I called to break the news, we felt lost and alone. We never did find out what actually caused his death but it didn\’t really matter. Our friend, family member, confessor and constant companion had moved on without us and we were devastated. To this day, I still can\’t talk about him or look at a picture of him without crying. As I write this I am sobbing as I recall his wonderful life. He touched the hearts of everyone he met, accepted everyone at face value and simply wanted to give and get love. We lost a piece of ourselves when he died but he left us with a legacy that will last forever: Love with abandon. I took some comfort in a few lines I had inscribed on a memorial river rock for our garden where he loved to dig and sleep on warm, freshly overturned soil: \”Comet 1993-2007  Our precious boy who loved beyond measure, You are in our hearts forever.\”

We have since adopted two more pound puppies, an 8 yr. old Chi/Dasch. mix and a Bijon who was rescued from a WV puppy mill. They have brought warmth and joy back into our home but there remains an exquisitely special place in our hearts for our dear boy, Comet. We love you, sweetheart and we will always miss you terribly but more importantly, we never did get to thank you for all you brought to our lives. Thank you our angel.
You are our hero.

S from NJ