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Long before my husband and I had children, we had several four-legged family members. I’m not going to go into the history of each cat and dog that were part of our beloved history, except for our boxers, Casey & Cleo.

We bought these two sweet puppies from a breeder near our home shortly after I resigned from my job. We had full intentions of buying one dog, but this was a package deal. These two were from the same litter and were especially close to one another. I said “let’s do it!” My husband thought I was crazy and I probably was, but I wrote the check.

I spent the next year trying to potty train two puppies. A kennel took over our dining room, puppy kindergarten required us both present (which was obviously difficult with my husband’s work schedule), and drool covered our couches until we could get them to lay only on their dog beds. We bought food by the bulk load and ended up hiring an in-home dog trainer so that I could walk them down the street without looking like an unruly circus act.

After a year, we were a true family. We could take Casey and Cleo anywhere and they behaved well. Even after our daughter was born, they were incredible. They loved her, watched over her, and were gentle with her. The problem was, as she got older and demanded more of my time, it became difficult to devote the time that I knew Casey and Cleo also deserved and needed. How can I push a stroller and walk two large, energetic dogs at the same time? How can I let my infant crawl around in a yard covered in dog poop? I was struggling and torn by these developing relationships for over a year. I knew something needed to change. My husband was now attached, though not often present to help.

The day came when I broke down and called the breeder. This was not a pleasant conversation. She told me exactly what I already knew and already felt completely guilty about. How could I break up the only family these two dogs have known for the 5-years of their life? What would this do to them? During some point in her speech to me, she gave me the name of a family who soon became part of our extended family. A family that I will be forever grateful for.

This family also owned two boxers, but recently lost one at a very young age. They were looking to add a new boxer to their family. I knew mine would not be separated and didn’t know if they would be willing to take my pair. Within days, this entire family, (two parents, four children, and one boxer) were in a van driving across the state. I was packing up everything (plus some) that my two boxers would ever need.

That Sunday, one of the hardest decisions I ever made happened. I watched my two “children” of five years drive off with a family that I knew would love them like I did. As hard as this was for me, 6 months later, this family lost their other boxer. They were now left with my (our) Casey & Cleo.

Last week, Casey & Cleo celebrated their 9th birthday. Cleo passed away the day after. Tears come to my eyes as I remember my sweet girl and pray for this family as they also grieve this loss…

In addition to my oldest daughter, who was two when we let Casey and Cleo go nearly 5 years ago, we now have identical twin toddlers. Ironically, there are many times my twin daughters remind me of my time with Casey & Cleo. You can’t give one a treat without the other. You need to give them each their own bowl of food because sharing is not an option. Amber thinks her name is Amber, and her sister’s name is Amber too.

God knew what he was doing in preparing my husband and I for what our future would hold.

Now, we have fish.