The Lee Side: Tribute to my old friend

In a world gone crazy, finding a true loyal and dedicated friend can be a challenge on many fronts.

Posted on 9/21/13

By Lee Coleman

Some 21 years ago, I found just such a friend at a mall of all places.

My wife had an appointment at a nail salon in the mall and quite frankly, the chemical smell in those places drives me up the wall.

Instead of sitting there and getting punch-drunk by the odorous haze of acrylics and nail polishes, I decided to take a walk while she got her fingers extended and her toes waxed.

Or whatever it is they do.

Meandering through the maze of we’ll-take-your-money-and-laugh shops, a pet store beckoned me.

As if a tractor beam was pulling me, I walked directly to a small cage in the back of the store and there she was.

A giant cotton ball with big eyes and an obligatory cute tail waggle.

“Hey Mister. Psssh, over here. Pick me up and for the price of a cute puppy kiss, I’ll convince you to take me home. Come on, I dare you. No, I double-dog dare you.”

Where I come from, if you are double-dog dared, it is against the law to not accept the challenge.

I did and I lost badly. Cute puppy won and $160 later, we took our new cockapoo puppy Haley home with us and our journey of unconditional love and friendship began.

What gives dogs the right to have the ability to ruin a perfectly good bad mood?

My little 12-pound princess wrote the book on and perfected the art of doing just that.

Unconditionally. Of course, she never turned down a bacon and cheese Beggin’ Strip in the process.

Much to the chagrin of my splintered heart, our journey together ended two years ago next week when the pain of being an elderly dog of 19 years finally caught up with her and I had to make perhaps the hardest decision of my lifetime.

Cradling her in my arms, I removed her collar for the last time and barely able to lift her head, she seemed to smile as she gave me her final cute puppy kiss as the vet attendant took her from my arms.

I knew it was a smile because I’d seen it so many times in her long life. Me and my dawg had a lot of fun together. I liked to refer to many of our shenanigans as the ‘Puppy Olympics’.

For example, she was not fond of going to the vet. She loved to ride in my car and put her head outside the window and make those gurgling noises as the wind blew in her face.

But once she realized where she was going, it was on.

She would start running these puppy laps around her side of the front seat. Around and around she would go while all the time staring at me and working me with her big beautiful eyes.

“Hey Dad. We don’t need to go here. Let’s go home and play with some dried out pig ears I hid under your bed weeks ago. Better yet, you can throw me a ball and I’ll play keep away all day.

“Hey, forget all that. Why don’t I just buy you a new Pantera and give you a million bucks just for being a great dad. What a deal huh?”

My dawg, funny girl.

After getting in the car to leave her behind for good, I hung her collar on my rear view mirror and absolutely just lost it. I didn’t have another tear left to cry.

Then I recalled the look of excitement on Haley’s face the day I took her away from that cage in the pet store.

Somehow, I knew then we would share a long life together complete with so many memories and countless thousands of hours of fun and fellowship.

All unconditional.

Feeling so deeply saddened by the loss of my dawg and having to say goodbye, a warm ocean of comfort overcame me as I realized I wasn’t saying goodbye at all. I was only saying farewell for now.

When my day comes, I know Haley will be waiting for me on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge. Joy to the world.

I’ll see you again old friend.

Coleman is the editor of the Republican and can be contacted at

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