They say pet ownership is a “Contract with Sorrow.” Sorrow found us last night as we said goodbye to Mario after a sudden decline in health. I was telling a friend just yesterday that we loved Mario more than people should love a dog, not imagining what would happen in mere hours. He came to us as a foster through Sooner Golden Retriever Rescue when he was 18-months to be a role model to our rascally puppy Enzo. His name was Sam then (as in “Uncle Sam,” because he was born on the 4th of July) but we changed it to Mario since we already had a Sam in the house. When Pam of SGRR brought him over for the introduction, Mario strutted in like he owned the place, found the powder room and drank from the toilet. Pam was giving me the run-down of his history and mentioned that he was “a bit of a counter-surfer” and we turned around to find stealthy Mario with his front paws on the kitchen counter, checking out the food situation. Over the years, he ate a variety of things he found there: whole bananas, jalepenos, two sticks of butter still wrapped in paper, and – the best – an unopened can of cream of chicken soup. He could, and did, in his younger years climb a 6’ stockade fence (both over and back) and he became part of the folklore at his vet’s office after he climbed out of his post-surgery cage while he was recovering from anesthesia. They found him on the subsequently-empty storage shelf that was above the cages. Mario had an unusual habit of sucking on his stuffed animals for hours in a trance-like state (the “woobie trance”). He and Enzo became a bonded pair (the original “Italians”) and I hope that, somehow, they are now reunited. Bruno joined the family after Enzo died, and Bruno just adored Mario and would always greet Mario with a little kiss on the side of his mouth whenever they had been separated for a bit. I’m not sure that love was reciprocated but Mario was a good sport about the active newcomer. He loved me fiercely and I loved him fiercely back. My “polar bear”, “marshmallow”, “mar-baby” charmed everyone he met with his beautiful face and calm demeanor. We are so grateful that he had a good life until the very end and that I was able to work from home for what would end up being the final months of his life. Who’s a good boy? Mario, that’s who.