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Zaleski: A great dog finds a good home

Jack Zaleski, The Forum Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

CHELSEA, Vt.—When old Hooper died, my triplet granddaughters were beyond consoling. The broad-shouldered cross between a yellow Lab and some other tall breed had been with them all their lives — earlier, in fact. Hooper was 13; the girls are 11. He was friend and protector.

Their mother had rescued him from a shelter; he'd been an abused pup. Saying goodbye to Hooper when age brought on more suffering it was more difficult for her. But the day came. The veterinarian did was had to be done. A period of mourning commenced. It lasted for months.

Then Kelly came.

My brother-in-law in New Hampshire has been raising and training champion springer spaniels for many years. As Hooper's condition worsened, I alerted Mike that the girls might be ready for a puppy in a short while. He understood the situation. "Let me go to work on it," he said. My confidence was high. After all, he's a dog guy. He found Kelly in a pedigreed litter at a kennel he knows well.

But could the girls and their mom get past the loss of ol' Hoop? Was the sorrow still too deep?

Not to worry. It was love at first sight. Five-month-old Kelly was already trained to voice commands, and her breeding as a natural field dog was obvious. She took to the girls, their mom and a new home in the Vermont hills as if she'd been born there. With a loving personality that complements boundless energy, the young springer was a member of the family within days. She's a people dog.

And that's one reason the girls have her. Early in her training, she did not measure up for championship field competition. Oh, she would have competed well, Mike said, but not at the highest level. Too much "personality," trainers concluded.

Ya gotta love that personality. Can't miss it when she runs a nose-to-the-ground, bird-scent pattern, or races over field, brook and log, ears flapping, tail spinning like a helicopter rotor. It's unbridled joy in her bright eyes — circling back, panting from the exertion and eager to go again. She's a great dog. She's in a comfort zone. She curls up with the girls when they come home from school, snuggles into their beds when she can get away with it. She's as relaxed and loving as a dog can be. She's home.

Sure, Hooper is missed. But Kelly has brought a new happy dog's life into the house. Granddaughter Bennett observed, " I think Hooper would like Kelly." I'm sure of it, I said, and there were tears in Bennett's eyes. Then she smiled at me and at Kelly, and the tears were gone. Hard to beat that.

Zaleski retired in February after nearly 30 years as The Forum’s editorial page editor. He will continue to write a Sunday column. Contact him at or (701) 241-5521.