On October 8, 2014

In honor of our four-legged friends

By Robin Alberti

This week I had to let go of my 14-year-old dog, Maple. She came from a German Shepherd mom and unknown father. She picked me out when she was 9 weeks old, trampling all the other puppies in the puppy room at the Deschutes County Humane Society in Oregon, to put her paws on my knee and lick my chin. It was love at first sight.

I know many of you feel as I do: pets are family members, not possessions. When someone would ask me if I have kids, I have always answered “I have two two-legged kids and two four-legged kids.” I am a firm believer that when you take on the responsibility of giving a pet a home, it is a lifetime commitment.

Pets bring us so much joy, love, affection and entertainment. Even some of their annoying habits or bad behavior become funny stories to tell. Maple ate one of my two-legged children’s gingerbread houses every year until last, despite our best efforts to place them where she could not get to them. Having our gingerbread houses last until the New Year was a sign she was getting old.

Maple was there with me through a move across the country, the birth of my kids, my divorce, Tropical Storm Irene flooding our home, and many other ups and downs of life. Her love and devotion was unwavering. Even though she was not thrilled to share my attention when I had my two-legged children, she recognized them as part of our pack. Once my son starting throwing food from his high chair though, Maple decided that kids were not such a bad thing after all!

I have received many thoughtful words of condolence over the past few days and have had many people share their stories with me about their wonderful pets. But the one thing that meant the most to me came from my dad, who was up in Maine at the time. He went to the local humane society and made a donation in honor and memory of Maple.

My kids and I baked dog biscuits last year at Christmas time and delivered them to the Rutland County Humane Society and we support that shelter as much as we can. Shelters can always use cash donations, but they need many other items too, like worn out sheets and blanket. Making a donation to your local humane society in honor of a pet is truly a meaningful way to honor a pet that has touched your life and left paw-prints on your heart.

Maple will always be in my heart and on my mind. My kids and I will tell stories of her antics and think of her every year when we build our ginger bread houses.

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