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We miss Boomer already

The poor little puppy had been abandoned by the side of the highway.

When my husband found him, the pup was shivering from the cold. The minute Irwin opened the door, the pooch jumped in, anxious to leave the subzero wind chills behind him.

The anonymous pup was cute as heck, but clearly no purebred. He clearly was a mutt or - as my dad used to say - a Heinz 57. He had the smooth, shiny, black coat of a Lab, the broad forehead of a pit bull, and the slight, macho underbite of a boxer. His body was long, suggesting a dash of dachshund in his DNA.

He slept soundly during the hour-long drive to where Irwin was staying. Impressed by the dog's gentle nature and cute face, my husband began trying to find a good home for him.

But everything was full. We contacted rescue groups, but they didn't have available foster homes. Shelter operators told Irwin that police had busted the owners of a huge puppy mill recently, and now all the shelters in the region were filled to capacity.

We were already worried about the puppy's future. What were we going to do with him? Would we be able to find him a suitable home?

People suggested we adopt him, but that didn't seem feasible. Our house is small and already crowded with four pets. The cat is elderly and cranky; I couldn't imagine tormenting the poor old guy with a rambunctious newcomer.

So we sent out Facebook pleas and placed a classified ad in The Forum. And as we waited for Junior's new humans to show up, we kept him at our place.

The minute the little guy entered the house, he bounced up on the sofa - suggesting he was familiar with inside living. He proceeded to impress us with his impressive knowledge of house-training and his gentle nature. He whined a little at night, as puppies often do, but then slept soundly for the next seven hours.

The other animals, of course, were confused. How would this new interloper affect pack order? Someone had to be the omega dog, and it certainly wasn't going to be Jake the Elder or Kita the Princess.

The cat was afraid to come out of the bathroom. The turtle, as usual, would not come out of his shell to comment.

Tolerant at first, the dogs began to resent his presence. Characteristically unaware of her hamster-like size, Kita issued a supposedly terrifying growl whenever he climbed on my lap. Jake turned into a Lap-rador retriever. He took to climbing on the couch and sitting on us so Junior couldn't claim us as his property.

Hoping that he would pick up some good habits from Jake, we showed him how to "sit" and "come" for treats.

Then, finally, a phone call. It was an older woman who had seen our ad in the paper. She said she liked to rescue dogs and her family's old dog had died. Thrilled that we'd found a home for our four-legged orphan, Irwin volunteered to deliver the pup.

A day later, we got a call. The pup's new family also had a cat, who was outraged over the presence of a new four-legged family member. The cat was throwing up - and worse. It wasn't going to work.

Our hearts heavy, we drove to their apartment and picked up the dog. We had turned down other callers who responded to the ad after the first caller. What if it was too late to find another adoptive family? The pup sat on my lap and looked at me with forlorn brown eyes. It was as if he knew things hadn't worked out.

"We should name you 'Boomerang,'" I told him, "because you keep coming back to us."

At that moment, he was christened "Boomer."

Just as we pulled into our driveway, Irwin's phone rang again. It was another woman who had seen the ad in the paper. She was a single mom who grew up with dogs and loved them. She wanted to see him.

Once again, Boomer and Irwin made the trip to town. It only took one glance for the woman to decide she loved him. She even loved his name.

And so Boomer found a new home and family.

May he find a specially wrapped Milk Bone underneath their tree this holiday season.

We miss you, Boomer.