Thirteen years ago, Jill and I went to the Humane Society in Atlanta, GA. I remember walking into the room of recessed kennel rows and open play areas and being immediately drawn to one of the kennels on the top row. Inside was this little black-and-white fur ball that must have had a bit of Husky in her. She looked at me as if to say “You ready?”, and I was. I called Jill over, and I don’t think we even looked at another dog.

We brought the 10-week old puppy home and named her Tara, as Jill was reading “Scarlett” at the time. From day one, this dog was happy to simply be in the same room with us. Never requiring any real potty training, she was the easiest puppy I have ever been around. I can remember carrying her around the house on a throw pillow, she was that small. Playful, but not annoyingly so, and loving, Tara became our first baby.

It’s cliche to call your pet “Our baby”, but it has never been more appropriate. For her third birthday, we had a keg party to celebrate Tara being of legal drinking age. We took Tara everywhere: to the park, to class, to the bar, to the store. If we could shoehorn her into a destination, we did it. Tara had a true love of people, and most of our friends will ask about her as if she is a child. It was 1995 when the first “Tara Report” debuted in our annual Christmas letter, and it is usually the most discussed portion.

When Jill left Atlanta for Denver (mind you, we aren’t even married at this point) Tara rode shotgun in Jill’s Corolla. When I came to my senses and begged Jill to come back, Tara rode in between us in the Ryder truck we used to get everything back. She flew out to Denver for the next move, something we never made her do again. With Jill and I married and in Denver, the next few years were probably the happiest of Tara’s life. We took her to Washington Park several times a week and down to The Spot, our local pub. She even trained with Jill for her first marathon. Our community of friends there took her in as well, sometimes coming over to walk her without us. I used to run with her to the park and I never made a trip without someone commenting on her beauty.

Tara was the most beautiful dog I have ever seen. We never found out what her exact make-up was, but there had to be a bit of Husky in there. She was medium-sized and her markings were unique and wonderful. I have never seen a dog that resembles Tara, and I am guessing I never will.

When Logan was born in 2000, Tara’s spot in the family changed dramatically. Jill and I were very worried about her reaction, as she was never wild about kids (we think due to an incident of children throwing firecrackers at her), which concerned us greatly. The first time she sniffed Logan, she gave him a lick and looked at us like “It’s OK”. I will never forget that. Tara rolled with the punches, and the punches were more frequent and callous as we had more children and she slid down the list. I guess that is how it goes, but I wish I had been more conscious of it.

In 2002, the family came back east, Tara making the cross-country drive AGAIN, this time stuffed in the very back of our Jeep. We moved into a house with a large backyard and fenced it in so she could run riot. Tara had starting slowing down a bit, at this point and only ran on occasion. Still, she loved being in the same room with us and took to Emma as well as she took to Logan. Lily smiled every time Tara came into view. I can see us walking through our south Charlotte neighborhood, knowing that we must look like the prototype suburban family, with our 2-3 kids and our beautiful dog.

As you may have guessed, we had to let Tara go today. She had a seizure last night and hadn’t really been herself for a long time. Massive back problems kept her from doing much more than a potty break or a meal and she cried constantly. We could have tried to poke and prod and figure out what exactly was wrong, but her quality of life had fallen to a point that, even if the seizures never came back, she was miserable. Today is one of the hardest days of my life. I miss her already, so much. I know she is somewhere right now, prancing through the park, drawing all eyes to her.

Goodbye puppy, I love you so much.