Sparkplug Ulysses "Sparky" Gilhooly

Sparkplug Ulysses Gilhooly, better known as Sparky, was a mixed-breed adopted dog. Like most rescues, very little is known about his early life, but when he joined our family in February 2002, he was probably about two years old.

Sparky's rescue was probably typical for many - my wife saw his photo in a newsletter, fell in love, and began trying to convince me that a third dog in the house made sense. She convinced me by calling me every morning in my hotel in Sweden, where I was on a business trip. Assuming that any adoption fee had to be less than international long distance calls, I said I thought it was a fine idea.

So, the adventure began.

Sparky didn't always get along with our other dogs at first, and since my wife had done all the work to rescue him, he immediately decided he was my dog.

Eventually, he began to fit into the household. Eventually, he started to run the household.

Sparky had lung issues from the time we adopted him. Every new doctor would look at an x-ray and gasp, until we said, "That's just Sparky. It's normal for him." Nothing serious or curable, just enough to require specialists to take a look at him now and then. His doctors assumed he had some lung disease early on that was never treated, but he managed to survive it.

This is one of the main issues with adopting a dog that was abandoned - you can't go to anyone to ask about his health. It's hard to locate someone who dumped a dog.

Sparky had actually been adopted before we adopted him. His new owner put him in the backyard and went to work. Sparky got bored, jumped the fence and wandered off. His owner returned him to the shelter.

Sparky passed away in our kitchen in June 2005. We were heart-broken, but I was also angry. If his owner had done the basics of care for a pet, he would still be alive! If his second owner hadn't realized leaving a dog alone is a recipe for disaster, he would have had a home.

I realized many people probably don't know the basics of care. They don't think about the ongoing costs before they get a dog. They have no idea what they are getting into - and that's why kids get dogs at Christmas that are in the shelter by Easter.

So, Sparky had one owner that didn't care for him and dumped him in the shelter. He had a second owner who abandoned him in the backyard and didn't understand why a pack animal would go find someone to play with.

We have to stop this. We have to teach people how to be responsible pet owners. That's why my wife and I founded Sparky's Pals.