It was November of 2006 when my parents brought home a beautiful big mutt. It was just a week or so after they had to put down our family dog, Babe.
It was a couple of months or so after my sister was re-diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. My aunt was also battling breast cancer.
Our family was having a rough go of it and not surprisingly, found comfort and joy in the new family dog. My mother named the three-year-old mutt Hope and she became a symbol of sweet, caring comfort. We didn't know how - or even if - things would get better but we had Hope.
Hope was a very sweet, loving dog. She loved her belly rubs and whether you petted her for a minute or an hour, whenever you stopped, she would nuzzled her nose in under your hand to let you know that it wasn't quite enough yet.
Within a week of my parents having adopting Hope from the SPCA, I adopted Hope's son, Buster. The two dogs loved playing together and had more than a few adventures. While neither would run off when outside by themselves, when the two were together and unleashed, they became travel buddies. It made for some nerve-racking times for the family.
We tried to not let them out together untethered - we really did - but they were quick to seize the opportunity whenever it presented itself. Hope got a face full of porcupine quills during one such adventure but that didn't slow her down from looking for her next chance to go traveling with her son.
The two scared us mightily once when they went missing for several days. Eventually, they were always found safe and sound and never seemed to understand what all the fuss was about when they returned home.
We often wished we could have had cameras on them to see exactly what they did on their travel adventures. Inevitably, we would get a call from someone saying they found two sweet dogs with our number on the collar. Often, those calls came from many miles away from my parents' house as the dogs seemed to love hiking through the mountains.
Hope loved to play with Buster. The two were together often and they would chase various toys and play tug of war or just chase each other around, playfully jumping on each other and scrambling for the upper-hand in their dog wrestling matches.
Hope would also play with my sister's dogs Orvis, and then Bear when they would come to visit. She loved being outdoors but loved sleeping on the couch or in bed and snuggling up with nearest human.
She had big beautiful eyes that conveyed emotion. Usually, she seemed to be saying she just needed a little more loving or a little more food. And the occasional car ride. She enjoyed her trips in the car, even if getting up in to the vehicles became more a burden toward the end.
We had Hope as my sister fought her battle and eventually found a miraculous treatment that continues to give her a remarkable quality of life today. We had Hope even as my aunt passed away, suffering little from her battle against cancer. We had Hope as my mom was diagnosed, treated and cured from her bout with cancer. We had Hope as my uncle passed away unexpectedly. We had Hope as we went through all of the normal ups and downs that families go through during life. With Hope came great comfort. With Hope came great joy. With Hope came unconditional love and always, the promise of a brighter tomorrow.
We had to put Hope down on Friday the 13th but we haven't really lost Hope. She will always live on in our hearts and memories and our family will always owe her a debt of gratitude for she lived a good life and made ours immeasurably better along the way.
Dogs are a special part of any family and their camaraderie is therapeutic for their "parents." But Hope seemed to be the perfect dog at the perfect time for our family.
While she helped us get through the hard times, she also helped us celebrate the holidays, enjoy our annual gathering with friends and family - the Byers Bash - and was there for our celebrations of the good news regarding my sister and mom. All she wanted in return for her constant help was her food and our loving in return.
Perhaps no one in our family will miss Hope more than Buster. He seems a little confused at not seeing his mother when we visit these days. But, he is getting acquainted with his new play pal, Molly. The family bond will always be there but there is room for new opportunities, new traditions, new memories waiting to be made.
We will always be grateful for the time we had with our Hope and we will have Hope in our hearts forever.