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  • Marilyn Saltzman

Loyalty, joy and heartbreak

Daisy was our first dog. A Brittany spaniel mix, we adopted her over 40 years ago when we first moved to Conifer. Heidi was in kindergarten, Kevin in first grade. Daisy taught us about the joys, the responsibilities and the pain of pet ownership. We were walking Daisy around the new neighborhood one day, unleashed, and she ran in front of a car. Her back was broken, and we had to put her down. All four of us cried as we said goodbye. And we learned that even in the mountains, it’s best to keep dogs leashed.

Ginger followed, a loving golden retriever mix who sat by Irv’s bedside during his long recovery after losing his leg; she was the best friend and nurse a man could hope for. We bred Ginger with a neighbor’s dog and kept the puppy, named Waffles by Kevin. We lost Ginger to old age. Waffles escaped over the fence, ran across Highway 285 with a neighbor dog and was shot by a local rancher. Heartbreak once again.

Midnight, Jack, Chester and Dillon followed over the years. We became step-parents for a year to Perry, our nephew Steven’s dog, when Steven was working in Ghana.  Our kids grew up. The dogs became our new kids.

Then came Togo. Our friend Lesley was fostering him when a family brought the sickly pup back to the shelter after they had adopted him as Christmas gift for their kids. He almost died from the flu until Lesley nursed him back to health. We brought Dillon, our dog at the time, to meet Togo, and they got along famously. So Togo became a member of the family 14 years ago. He was my hiking companion in Meyers Ranch, Flying J and Staunton State Park. He sat loyally by Irv’s side at the computer, at the dining room table and in the bedroom. He patiently let Selam, then Dian, comb, walk  and feed him when they joined our family.

For the last year, Togo’s arthritis got worse and worse. We tried medications, CBD oil and special food. We adopted two new puppies, sisters Lix and Lila, to keep him company and play with him. He seemed to perk up as he trained the puppies to cuddle…and to leave him alone when he’d had enough.  But alas, his new fountain of youth dried up. On my last day in Brazil, Irv told me on the phone, “Togo can hardly get up. He’s incontinent. When you get home, I think it’s time to let him go.”

So along with the joy of my homecoming came the pain of putting Togo down the very next day. We stayed in the vet’s room with him until his last breath. Then we waited 10 more minutes to be sure he was really gone. We petted him one last time and sobbed as we closed the door behind us. A stranger in the waiting room offered a hug as we forlornly left the vet’s office with Togo’s leash and collar in hand. Togo had been so loyal; he trusted us; and we made the difficult decision to let him go.

Lix and Lila helped ease the pain with their puppy frolicking and demands for attention. But a month later, I still look for Togo’s greeting when I enter the house from the garage, get up in the middle of the night for a bathroom run or feed breakfast to two dogs instead of three.

Thanks for enriching our lives, Daisy, Ginger, Waffles, Midnight, Jack, Chester, Dillon, Perry and Togo. Here’s to many years of loyalty and love with Lix and Lila.

Exciting news: My book, “Your Love Is Blasting in My Heart: A Grandmother’s Journey,” will be available soon on Amazon and Kindle Select. I’ll let you know when it’s on sale.

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