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I have always been a dog person.  My family has owned dog’s for the bulk of my life, and they have always been an important part of the family.  My memories of each one are dear to me even though they are also painful at times for the loss.

When I cam to Pennsylvania, I knew that one of the things I was getting involved in was having a new dog around.  His name was Colby, and he was a big, 80-pound bundle of energy and love.  At our first meeting, one I had been nervous about since I knew he was very protective of his owner (now my wife), he jumped into the backseat of our car and after looking me over for a few seconds greeted me with a friendly lick on the cheek.

We were buddies from that moment forward.

Colby was a huge part of our lives.  He rode in the car with us everywhere.  We bought him his own hamburger or ice cream when we went through McDonald’s or Dairy Queen drive-thru.  He laid on the bed with us to watch movies and tried to catch the snow when we shoveled the driveway.  He was a part of our family, an equal in the household.

He was, in short our best friend.

He was also a staunch protector.  I will never forget the spring day we ordered a pizza and didn’t hear the delivery man knock on the screen door.  Colby perked up a bit, but stayed with us.  That is, until he heard the screen door open and someone step inside.  At that moment, he was off like a bullet.  By the time I caught up with him he was halfway across the living room and the pizza guy was fleeing in terror from a flash of black and white fur and teeth.

Colby isn’t with us anymore.  A few months ago time and infirmity caught up with my dear friend.  When we realized that just standing and walking has become all but impossible for him we made the impossible decision.  We held him as he passed, and I have wept more for him since that day than for any other canine companion I have ever had the joy of knowing.

In two days it will be Christmas.  Our first Christmas without Colby with us.  The first Christmas he will not check out all the presents trying to find his.  The first Christmas he will not rip open his own gifts, sometimes consuming half a bag of Beggin’ Strips before we can stop him.  The thought of that hit me this morning and I have been fighting the tears ever since.  Rather unsuccessfully.  I miss him terribly, and probably always will.

They say that the best bargain man ever made was with the dog.  We would give them little more than a little food and they give us unconditional love and eternal companionship.  My wife and I gave our own unconditional love and companionship to Colby, and received back something that can’t be expressed in words from him.  I know that somewhere out there, he is laying in fields of sweet grass and patiently waiting for us to come home.  When I get to heaven I expect to be met by a sweeping tail and a flurry of happy barks.

So, I say: “Merry Christmas, Colby.  You’re a good dog, and an even better friend.”

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