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a heartwarming tail

When Ken met Sally: Hoffman's heartwarming tale of adopting his new puppy

Ken Hoffman's heartwarming tale of adopting his New Year's puppy

Ken Hoffman new puppy Citizens for Animal Protection
As Ken Hoffman learned, a puppy makes everything better. Photo by Getty Images

Here's a sad dog story, but hold on — there's a happy ending.

Fifteen years ago, I adopted my dog Lilly from Citizens for Animal Protection over there on the Katy Freeway. This is the sparkling clean animal shelter that provides my weekly Pets of the Week. You know me, I'm a dog lover — all dogs — and there's never been a sweeter, friendlier, better companion than my little Cocker Spaniel.

Last year, Lilly got very sick with Cushing's Disease, and her heart finally gave out in November. I loved this dog so much, I couldn't see myself getting another one.

But, my life is better with a dog. So last week, I returned to Citizens for Animal Protection, took one look at a stray named Sally and said, "You're coming home with me."

Sally's bio on her cage said "Terrier/Schnauzer — 8 months old," a puppy. She was curled up in her cage. I figured she'd weigh about 15 pounds, small and skinny.

When Ken met Sally
Then a CAP staffer opened the cage and out popped a tall, long dog with big ol' feet, meaning we may be talking Marmaduke in a few months. I'm thinking there's some Irish Wolfhound DNA in the mix. But I'm not swabbing her mouth and sending a Q-Tip to Ancestry.com. I don't care where she's been. I only care where she's going. And she's going home with me. I believe in love at first sight. Wrap her up, I'll take her.

It had been 15 years since I adopted a buddy at CAP and I had forgotten the procedure. So, here you go. CAP places about 7,000 animals — dogs, cats, bunny rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, rats, etc. — in homes each year. (Rats? Yeah, rats, too.)

When you enter, it's dogs on the left, cats on the right, "others" in the back. I made a hard left. There are two rooms full of dogs who've been examined head to tail by a CAP veterinarian, so they're good to go. You can check out their photos and descriptions at the CAP website.

First thing, you find a dog that matches your eharmony 29 dimensions of compatibility. A staffer will take the dog out its cage for a meet 'n' greet in a private room. They'll let you play with as many dogs as you wish until you find your perfect pooch. Then an adoption specialist will interview you, just to make sure you're not a maniac and you'll be a responsible pet owner. CAP is very careful about who gets one of their animals.

If you pass the interview process, now comes the paperwork. The usual fee to adopt a dog is $100. But West Houston Subaru funded a special deal during December — all pets half-price. Best $50 I've spent in a long time.

Puppies, kittens, and a sweet bonus
CAP even sweetens the deal. Included in every dog adoption: if the dog hasn't been spayed or neutered, a CAP vet will do the surgery, usually the next day. I adopted Sally on December 30, and we spent New Year's Eve together at home. CAP will microchip the dog for free. They'll also pay for your regular veterinarian to examine the dog. You get doggy pain pills if they spay or neuter the pet, plus personalized dog tags.

As Ron Popeil says in those Ronco infomercials: Wait, there's more! You'll get a coupon for a free large, one-topping pizza at any Papa John's. The coupon says, "Let us take care of dinner while you get to know your new family member." You get all that for a hundy. Almost forget the most important thing ... you get a dog, too.

I've had Sally now for a few days. She's already picked out her favorite chair in the TV room. She's gentle and sweet and has learned how a dog door works.

She's got a tough challenge, though, filling Lilly's shoes, all four of them. But I've got a feeling that Sally will be just as wonderful, in her own way.

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Say hello to Ken Hoffman and Sally on Twitter.