Back in 2010, I wanted my mom to get a dog. I was convinced that a dog would be good for her, for all the reasons that dogs are good for people, not the least of which is that dogs give us unconditional love and everyone can use a little more of that. I was talking to rescue groups, trying to find the right dog for her, when she pre-empted my search by buying a puppy at a flea market.

At a flea market!

Okay, yeah, I was a little horrified by that, but the puppy was a ball of golden fluff and adorable, and even if it was a puppy mill puppy, well, it was in need of a good home, too. She and my dad named the puppy Gizmo, and had all the fun with him that a new puppy brings.

At that point in time, I had really only known one dog well — Zelda, my Jack Russell terrier — and so my standard for dog intelligence was unreasonably high, a fact that I was not aware of. You can’t know what you don’t know, right? I had to live with a few more dogs before I realized that my expectations were unreasonable. At the time, though, I thought Zelda was a normal level of smart and Gizmo… well, Gizmo was charming.

Maybe the first time Gizmo came to visit us at our house in Winter Park, the dogs were running around the backyard and R was worried that Gizmo would fall in the pool. I confidently said, “Oh, no, he won’t do that,” just as Gizmo ran straight out over the edge of the pool and into the water. R jumped in after him — in January! — as I was still dithering in surprise. Even now the memory makes me laugh.

Which is nice, because you know what is coming, right? No one writes this kind of post except when they’re saying good-bye. Gizmo’s been declining for a while, was in congestive heart failure, and on Friday, after another round of tests indicated that something new was wrong (maybe liver, maybe kidneys), my dad and stepmom made the painful decision to help him go.

I nearly said it was a hard decision, but you know, I don’t think it was hard. It was time. But painful, oh, yes. Because Gizmo — my mom’s dog — actually turned out to be my mom’s last major gift to my dad. He was still a puppy, not even a year old, when she died. The hospice where she spent her last weeks allowed animals in and I can remember Gizmo lying next to her on her bed while she stroked his fur. But she was already letting go of the world, and she handed Gizmo off to my dad knowing that they would take care of one another after she was gone.

They did. Gizmo was maybe not the brightest dog (Zelda was tough competition), but he was the quintessential good dog. Loyal, loving, affectionate, playful, sweet, and completely 100% devoted to his person. If you wanted to find him, you never had to look much farther than two feet away from my dad. He was sociable and friendly to other people, always happy to say hello, but my dad was his person, and he was my dad’s shadow.

I gave him a bath last week, and I’m so glad that I got that last chance to rub his fur and tell him what a good boy he was. Because he was such a good boy. Such a good dog. He will be missed. He is already missed.