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I was alone, working late at AHS when I heard strange noises coming from another part of the building. I clearly watch too many murder mysteries and immediately set off in search of the largest dog I could find.
I had actually walked by Milo several times over the weeks he’d been with us and hadn’t felt any more drawn to him than I do to all of the animals for adoption. But this 85-pound St. Bernard mix fit my ideal size requirements that night, and back to my office we went. Instead of coming all the way in, Milo parked his body across the threshold and gave me a reassuring look. I was safe.
When it came time to deliver him back to his kennel, he headed for the exit, looking expectantly at me over his shoulder. I figured that after protecting me so well, I owed him at least one night in a home. I called Brian on the way home. Now, Brian has tolerated hundreds of foster cats and dogs (and one pig after he had called a moratorium on foster cats and dogs; he has since become overly specific.) He has put up with more foster-insanity than most spouses, so he had every right to hang up the phone and go to bed without speaking to me. We had been in the house for about twenty minutes when Milo quietly disappeared. I panicked, willing him not to be someplace Brian could see him. And then I found Milo - in bed with Brian, both sound asleep.
The next morning I was leashing Milo for the trip back to the adoption center when Brian looked at me and asked, “Where are you taking my dog?” Milo was home. Over the next two years, as we lost every one of our cats and dogs, Milo was there to lick our tears dry. (Actually, thanks to his slobbery kisses, he never actually managed the “dry” part.) As new foster animals arrived, Milo became “Uncle Milo”; the old dogs and feral kittens alike found comfort sleeping in his bed with him (or on him.) He had that effect on everyone.
One week ago tonight, Brian lay on the floor with an unwell Milo, telling me he just knew there was something very wrong. I told him I’d call the vet in the morning, but Brian couldn’t relax. He held Milo for hours that night, repeating a prayer into Milo’s fur, “Please don’t take my dog. Please don’t take my dog.” The next day we found out that Milo had inoperable cancer and was suffering. We gave him one really, really great day and said goodbye.
Today I am honoring Milo’s memory by raising money for the old, scared, and sick animals at AHS. I have no doubt that Milo is at peace, knowing that even in death, he continues to comfort others.
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