When it comes to household pets, those who own them usually fall into two categories: dog people and cat people.  And never the twain shall meet.

As for my wife and I, we've had both--at the same time.  Yes, it's shocking; dogs and cats living together!  Since our dog passed about 5 years ago, our cats Mezzo and Maestro rule the roost.  No doubt they're glad to be rid of that meddlesome mutt, Skippy.

During my teenage years until the time my own children were old enough to want one, there was not a pet around.  I never asked my parents why, but I think it's because they became weary of burying them.  From the time I was 5 years old until I turned 12, every dog we ever owned was run over by a car.  Their names were Tubby, Chap, Spice, and Albert; little mutt terriers that my siblings and I loved dearly.

(As I write this, it just occurred to me that I don't know why the dogs were allowed to run free near our busy street in the first place.  But as I look back, it seems there were always dogs outside in our neighbors' front yards back in those days, and many of them liked to chase cars.  My nextdoor neighbors had a succession of Pugs they simply named "Pug", probably because they didn't want to become too attached to them since they would all eventually be hit by a car.)

We mourned each of those little guys but, as kids do, we got over our grief quickly. We never spoke about it, but after Albert left us, I guess my parents had had enough. That was the last childhood pet we had.  I didn't even think about getting another pet, until my wife and I had kids of our own.

When Alyssa was 12 and Kristen was 7 they began to ask if we could get a dog.  My wife had had about the same luck as I had with dogs in her childhood, so we were both reluctant.  After much thought we decided to look at some shelters in the Austin area which is where we were living at the time.  We visited a small rescue shelter called "PAWS" and a worker guided us through the facility pointing out the available animals.

The experience has become one of the most cherished memories of our family, and one that we recount often.  As we were walking through the facility, our guide seemed really anxious for us to look at this one dog.  The woman took the dog out of its pen and invited us to take it into this gazebo they had outside the building.  To this day I don't even think the dog knew we were there.  No sooner had we sat down, than the dog spotted something in the bushes and went berserk.  It jumped up on the railing and leaped off an eight-foot drop to go after its invisible prey.  The shelter staff had to come outside and retrieve the dog.  We never figured out why they tried to pawn that psycho off on us; we guessed they just wanted it out of their building. We chose not to oblige.

When we went back inside we noticed this furry little mutt who was hiding under a chair. When we asked about him, they explained that he had just been found a couple of days before wandering down the side of the road.  You could tell he was really scared, but we were all drawn to him.  So, we took him outside into the gazebo.  I remember that he was trembling with fear; but he allowed us to hold him and, after a few minutes of talking softly to him, began to calm down.  We all quickly decided that he was our guy, and that's when Skippy became a part of our family.

We named him Skippy because he was the color of Skippy peanut butter--a furry chow, pom, corgi mix.  He had a big mane, big feet, a little body, and a loud bark which he used generously when he spotted other dogs on the street from his perch by the front window of our house.   You can see Skippy in many of the impromptu family photos taken over the years.  Skippy stayed with my wife and I after both girls moved out of the house to go to college and live their lives.  He was with us about 15 years and passed away peacefully after a short illness.  Skippy's the only dog my wife and I have had in our adult lives, and will probably be the last.  We miss him but, if there's such a thing as a Rainbow Bridge, we'll be reunited someday.

Today is Rainbow Bridge Remembrance Day, a day for remembering the cherished pets we've lost.  For remembering the funny things they did, and how they made us laugh. (Like Skippy tossing captured bugs in the air over and over, then rolling his back on them.)  A time for recalling our children wrestling and running through the house with them. (Skippy especially liked playing tug-o-war with a rope toy.)  A time for remembering the special joy that only a pet can bring.

When a pet dies, it hurts.  But as the old saying goes, "It's better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved before."

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