Our daughter Alissa passed away after a battle with leukemia in August 2006 at 25. Her life was not easy. An endocrinal deficiency required her to take growth hormones until she was 16. She grew to only 4 feet 9 inches tall and experienced some learning problems. In her late teens, she had pneumonia three times in six months, which required her to be hospitalized. Nevertheless, Alissa had a great fighting spirit and handled obstacles with strength, courage and determination.

The loss of Alissa left a gaping hole in our lives — as if someone had put a hose through the roof of our house and sucked out all of the happiness and joy. As the first anniversary approached, we needed something to move us forward.

That something was a cockapoo we named Baci.

My wife, Susan, and daughter Jenna had been looking for a dog. I was not as enthusiastic, but they persisted. On July 26, 2007, Baci arrived in our lives from a pet store called Love My Puppies in Wantagh.

That night, I came home from work and anxiously waited for Susan and Jenna to arrive with Baci. Jenna walked through the door and handed me this small buff-colored ball of hair. I cuddled Baci on my chest, and the first thing he did was lick my face. It was love at first doggy kiss, with many more to follow.

Baci quickly became part of the family, and suddenly the atmosphere of the house changed. He liked to take walks around the lake at Belmont State Park and ride in the car. He did crazy things that made us laugh. He would put his ball in my lap and wait for me throw it into the front foyer. Then he would chase down the ball and repeat the game.

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Baci was not a perfect dog. With a growl, he could be possessive with his toys. He was stubborn at times. He would go through the bathroom garbage and shred tissues. He fancied himself a tough-guy alpha dog and was not friendly with other dogs in public.

But Baci gave us unconditional love. When we came home, he would come to the door wagging his tail, happy to see us. He would come up and give me kisses. Some people have a problem with dogs giving them kisses; I did not mind this show of love and affection.

Unfortunately, as Baci approached his 10th birthday in June, he started having health issues. He was diagnosed in March with Cushing’s disease, an intestinal disorder, and his kidneys began to fail. I had hoped that we would have more time together, but it appears that our days with Baci are coming to a close. I am preparing myself for the dreaded day when I will have to decide to let Baci go from this earthly realm.

Baci was the something we needed to move us forward in our journey through grief. He was an unexpected gift from God for which I will always be thankful. This crazy cockapoo made a difference for a family struggling over the loss of a daughter and sister. That memory of Baci will live lovingly in my heart for the remainder of my life.

Reader Jerry Tucciarone lives in Seaford.