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It’s a day we’ll never forget. As we entered the veterinarian’s office, our dog’s tail wagged, excited to see his friends even though his health was failing. At 12 years old, we didn’t expect it to be his final day. But hours later, we left without a precious member of our family. I never realized how hard it would be to say goodbye to a pet.

As the vet delivered the grave news, I slowly sat down on the ground. With one hand comforting my dog, the tears began falling. He looked up at me, sensing that something wasn’t right, and licked the tears falling from my face. It was one of the most difficult moments of our lives as my husband and I lay on the blanket next to our beloved dog. We talked to him and reminisced over all that we’ve been through with him by our side. Sure, he was a dog, but he was so much more than just a pet.

My mind wandered back to the day he became part of our family. My husband and I were just kids, ready to tackle the adventure of raising a puppy. His lovable and energetic personality caught the attention of everyone who met him and that sparkle in his eyes had us wrapped around his little paw.

He was our first “child” teaching us valuable lessons in responsibility, patience, and love. He played a pivotal role as we grew up with him by our side, even helping my husband propose marriage to me.

And most importantly, he knew when we needed him. He laid for hours beside me as I faced bed rest during pregnancy and he nestled next to me as I cried over the loss of two of my children. That’s the beauty of pets. They can sense when something isn’t right and know when their love is needed the most.

That same dog who comforted me during my darkest days became a protector the moment we brought our baby girl home from the hospital. He patiently sat as our child poked his eyes and tugged his ears, the two quickly became best friends.

As we said our final goodbyes, my heart was physically aching, yet all I saw in his eyes was love and peace. Twelve years seems like a lifetime, but in that moment, I would have given anything for the gift of time.

As I sit here in my family room, the house feels eerily silent. I expect my friend to come barreling down the stairs, to hop right next to me on the couch. His bed and toys have disappeared, yet I catch myself hearing the jingle of his collar, hoping that his head will peek out from around the corner. Without my friend, our house feels lonely.

Sure, my dog would drive me nuts, but the things that would make me go crazy are the antics I find I’m missing the most. There is no four-legged friend begging at the kitchen table. There is no dog barking to let me know UPS or the school bus has arrived. And there is no companion nudging me to make room for him in my bed.

Dogs are wonderful animals. They can erase a bad day and can mend a broken heart. They offer compassion with just a simple look from their eyes. And they provide a sense of comfort when life feels uncertain.

As the days go by without our pet, the tears and sadness will subside. My boy was much more than just a dog, he’s the glue that held our family together. And while a piece of our hearts will always be missing him, I can smile knowing he lived a good life. Our dog loved us unconditionally and I know he felt that same exact love from us.

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Stacey Skrysak

Stacey Skrysak is a local television news anchor in Illinois, but her proudest role is becoming a mom after years of infertility. Stacey is mother to a 22-weeker surviving triplet and two angels. Even though two of her children were only alive for a short time, her triplets have touched thousands of people around the world. Through her blog, Stacey has become a voice for infertility, premature birth and child loss. These days, she sprinkles in the trials and tribulations of raising a daughter, who was once nicknamed “The Diva of the Nicu.”

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