The Life Lessons of One Tiny but Mighty Dog

The loss of my beloved Romeo has left my heart broken, yes, but he will be an inspiration for the rest of my life

Marla Rose


Me and my Romeo

On July 31, ten or so brutal seconds were the last moments of my dog’s life, a life that was full of enthusiasm, contentment and unbridled enjoyment for nine years with us.

Romeo was so named because he loved women, and when I met him as a scrawny little ragamuffin my friend had rescued, I am pretty sure I actually swooned because I knew I had to have that sweet boy in my life. When we met, I had a dog-shaped hole in my heart, a hole blown open when my beloved beagle-basset Lenny passed, and as a lifelong dog lover, it was an uncomfortable, palpable void right at my sternum.

I was resigned to this sad, empty feeling, though, at least until our circumstances were different. My husband and I were caring for my mother, suffering from Lewy Body Dementia, and in addition to trying to manage this progressive, cruel disease, we were also raising our elementary aged son and self-employed. Before I met Romeo that July evening, I told myself that if we were to adopt again while my mother lived with us, this dog would have to be the perfect fit: easygoing, not too large, gentle, good-natured. Little did I know that this perfect bull’s-eye match would actually cross my path. At that juncture in my life, I was not too accustomed to things going well.

Then I met Romeo.

My mother was with us when we met friends for a picnic with friends and my friend Amanda had this little dog in her arms. Mandy very unofficially adopted Romeo a few days before from people who were in a car next to hers, attracted by her animal rights magnet. This dog was good, they told her through the open window, but they had too many. He was young, they said, six months or a year old at most. They didn’t want to take him to the pound but they had too many. Over a series of red lights, they had this conversation and eventually the dog was handed over to Mandy. The car disappeared into Chicago traffic.

I asked if I could hold him right away and carried him over to my mother. Despite raising me, my mother wasn’t much of an animal person but she immediately smiled at this little dog in…