Pet owners have known for a long time that a dog, cat, bird, fish, livestock, or reptile can teach a family valuable lessons on responsibility and caring.
Those of us with pets also know about the unconditional love we share with them and the joy that they bring into our lives.
Ten years ago, in the summer of 2009, Bob and Denise Mirto decided it was time to adopt a shelter dog.
Their son and Bob’s secretary at his law office went to the West Haven animal shelter and brought home a small, 26-pound, longhaired adult male dog.
The Mirto’s instantly fell in love with him and named him Franco — after the Pittsburg Steelers’ running back, Franco Harris.
Just two weeks later, Denise learned that “The View” was doing a feature on rescue dogs. She sent in his photo and he was chosen to appear on the show.
Franco and his new family were treated like celebrities. They were put up in a luxury hotel in New York City and Franco slept in the window and kept watch over the city that never sleeps from the 50th floor.
“The people at the studio told us that Franco was their favorite,” Bob said.
Sometime later, the family learned that Franco had an underactive thyroid, and started him on medication that mellowed him out.
“In the ten years that we had him, Franco only barked once, — at the cat,” Bob said.
Franco became a fixture in the Mirto’s lives, they took him everywhere. Bob brought him to his West Haven Law Office, where he had a bed, greeted clients, and came to closings. West Haven High Students would come by at lunchtime and take him for a walk. He was very well behaved, and he loved visiting homes and the Orange Town Hall
Bob also was coaching the Orange Legion Baseball Team and Franco became the mascot, spending his time in the dugout during the games.
“He liked the attention that he got at the field, the boys loved him and high school girls would let him sit in their laps during the games,” Bob said. “He was well traveled, he’s gone to Muzzy Field in Bristol, Palmer Field in Middletown for tournament games, and the last trip he took was the Bark at the Park at Yale.”
He loved to ride in the car and even had his own car seat.
If you know the Mirto family or attended a Legion Game in Orange in the past 10 years, then you knew Franco.
Sadly, this love story ended recently when Franco was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Before anything could be done, he died peacefully at home on Thursday, May 23. He was 14 years old.
As the news spread, the Mirtos were showered with messages of sympathy — 150 e-mails, phone calls, and cards.
“He touched so many lives,” Bob said. “We thank everyone so much for all the support we received in this very difficult time.”
He added, ” This just proves that you can take a skittish 4-year-old dog, show it love and have a remarkable relationship for 10 years.”
This is the first in a series about pet adoption. Next Up Mi Sun, truly a rare find.
If you would like to be featured in the series, send a photo and your information, including phone number to Orangectlive01@gmail.com