If you're not an animal lover like I am, where you consider them family and your best friend and would do anything in the world to take care of them and keep them safe-then this won't resonate with you and you can click away and scroll to the next story. But--if you're like me, and your fur baby(s) are your heart-then keep reading, because you'll understand. Nothing reduces me to tears faster on social media (and yes, I'm a male who admits I have emotions and I cry)--than to read that someone's lost a pet on social media. The stories they share with their photos of special moments, talking about the things their beloved fur babies have gone thru with them, things they've helped them thru-times when the world was a dark place and their fur babies were their lights... Anyone who loves animals like we do can relate. And every single time I see a story (which has been a lot lately, sadly) it takes me right back to April 2019. Three years ago, when I had to do the right thing and say goodbye to the sweetest, most gentle being I've ever known in my life: my Belle.

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It's surreal that 3 years have already gone by and so much has happened since she left us-the biggest of which of course as we all know is the pandemic. But if I got the chance to write her a letter that she could actually read today-here's what I would say:

My Baby Girl:

Daddy loves you and misses you more than words can say. I can't believe you've been gone for three years this month. I was so sad the day you left us that I never got the chance to thank you for all you did for me during your time here, and even though I know you know how much you meant to me-I wanted you to know that I was so lucky to walk into the pet store in Michigan in 2005 and find you there at the adoption event. I remember they named you 'Honey' based on the color of your coat. You came trotting right up to me to say hello when we walked in, and I fell in love instantly. Funny part is-we already had one dog at the time at home that we had come to the pet store to shop for, and when I saw the signs that there was an adoption day--I immediately announced to those with me that "WE WEREN'T TAKING HOME A DOG!". You changed my mind the second I saw you.

For the next 14 years-you moved all over the country as I changed jobs in radio, and always made being so far away from my daughter Sommer easier in times I was sad to be so far away. You were the one constant I always had no matter what, and you got me thru losing both of my parents--Mom to cancer in 2006, Dad to heart failure in 2007. I wouldn't have made it without my best fur baby to comfort me thru the tears. So many happy times too--watching you play in the leaves...

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And watching you enjoy the yard you loved so much

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And it's still fun to tell the stories about how when we lived in Arizona you got loose one day and I got my exercise in chasing you around the entire apartment complex for 40 minutes because you'd trot along sniffing things and when I'd get about a step away from grabbing your collar, you'd turn it on and take off again. I'll always cherish the memories of taking you for walks when we lived in Brookfield IL and the neighbors would all decorate for Halloween--and you'd stop on our walks and bark at the inflatable Count Dracula that would pop up and down in his coffin on the neighbor's front lawn...Daddy's smiling right now picturing it.

We've been thru a lot down here since you left us. Dad lost his radio job in Chicago because of the pandemic and advertising dollars going away. Radio stations had to cut staff all over the country because money wasn't coming in, and we had to sell the house and move to Texas. Dad got lucky and found a great job while the other 11 people he was let go with for the most part haven't stayed in the industry. I wish you were here with us-you'd love it. But I know up in heaven your legs are working again just fine and you can walk without struggling, and pain doesn't exist anymore. Just always know Daddy loves you and misses you every day, and when the day comes that I get to see you again--the permanent hole in my heart here on earth will finally heal.

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