I've long wished for a job working with animals. Never expected it could come true while still employed at the paper.
I suppose manning the new GazetteMailPets.com Web site doesn't technically put me with animals, but at least I'm surrounded by animal lovers, which is one of the only crowds where I've always belonged.
Visitors to the site began e-mailing pictures of their pets for our online gallery, often with notes attached.
"We had a dog named Angel," wrote Franco of his family's white Eskimo Spitz. "She had the kindest spirit you'd ever find in a pet. We had the pleasure of her company for 14 years, until she succumbed to lung cancer and we had to put her to sleep. That was the toughest day of our lives."
The pain from losing Angel was so great that it took them two years before they could get another dog, rescuing a pup that was about to be taken to the shelter.
"She has the same kind spirit and personality as our previous dog. Her curly tail never stops wagging, and she's become just as much a member of the family as Angel. She's 14 years old now and still going strong."
The pain from losing a pet can be overwhelming, causing many to swear they'll never put themselves through it again. While I suppose you can avoid the eventual pain, you're also avoiding years of love and happiness - not just for you and your family, but also for the animal.
Cleveland Amory once wrote, "There are too many animals in need of homes to take the self-indulgent road of saying the heartbreak of the loss of an animal was too much to go through it again. To me, such an admission brings up the far more powerful admission that all the wonderful times you had with your animal were not worth the unhappiness at the end."
Another e-mailer, Renee, said that while she mourns the loss of a pet, she usually waits no more than a few days before adopting another, knowing that the antics of the newcomer will help her not dwell on her grief.
"Providing an unwanted cat or dog with a loving home is the best therapy any human could ask for. I feel like the short, joyful time that our animals are with us makes up for the heartbreak of their death," wrote Renee. "And unlike humans, none of my animal friends ever broke my heart while they were living."
I remember too well how it felt to lose Jade, a long-haired German shepherd I got when I was 19. Although I've been crazy in love with dogs before her and since, it was different with her, and I can't really say why. All I know is she got into a place in my heart that no dog has gone since.