I call him my “Heart Dog” 

Cosmo Fratello Pitarresi

I wasn’t looking for him when he found me.  I believe he came to me by Divine Appointment - for a special purpose. 

“The pup formerly known as “Jake” was from a Virginia SPCA. His  original adoptive owner posted on Craigslist that she had to “get rid of him”  due to unexpected life changes (divorce, new baby). My loving friend saw the post, picked Jake right up, and drove him all night to reach me in Niagara Falls, New York. 

Going through drastic life changes of my own, I was uncomfortable (frightened,really) suddenly living alone in an old, creaky house and had lost my faith in male companionship. 

My heart was set on a female Redbone Coonhound - like those featured in “Where the Red Fern Grows”. 

But Jake the Treeing Walker Coonhound needed  me.  One woman’s trash, this woman’s treasure. I had never even heard of the breed and hadn’t shared my life with a dog since I was a kid.

Unable to have human children, with my marriage on the rocks, Cosmo instantly made me a Hound Mama. 

July 28, 2011 - 2 a.m. - he arrived with Roberto and his own  Plott Hound boy, Bambino. My life was changed for the better the minute I laid eyes on my handsome boy. It was love at first sight! Jake of Chantilly, VA became Cosmo of WNY. 

My Guy. Nothing could tear me away. The most loyal, loving companion a girl could ask for. My life was instantly changed for the better.  

Our bond has only grown - having been sewn together over the past 12 years, the threads of a lifetime spent both enjoying and weathering our days and nights together. So many special moments - highs and lows. 

I think of our relationship in 3 phases.  

Phase 1: Cosmo’s “Pup Phase” - he was young, cute, sweet, innocent and snugly. 

Like many, I was a nervous new mother. Unsure I was doing everything right for him - but he actually taught ME! He was so eager to please. Such an obedient boy - great at walking on leash, not reactive to other dogs - but definitely a bit skittish at the sound of the coffee grinder or vacuum.

He knew his manners and many “tricks”. An easy child, for sure.  

Phase 2: Cosmo’s teen to adult phase  - athletic, muscular, avid hunter, protector, comforter, loyal companion, Velcro Dog.

After 1 year, as a young adult - he took a wife.  She was more than a handful for me - crazy, mischievous redhead Lucia the Houdini Hound - but she helped him weather my long work hours and my volunteer work for our local Niagara SPCA. She influenced my boy with a few bad habits - howling at ambulances and running the neighborhood at times, as her escort, when she sprung the gate by picking every lock or latch I put on it!  

Cosmo remained my protector - and hers!- throughout. 

After 2 years - my rescued boy had occasion to come to my rescue, literally   - in the shower, actually. 

In late August of 2013, while washing my hair, my left hand went limp- I dropped the shampoo bottle, my legs went weak and I crashed down into the tub. I knew I was having a stroke. My girlfriend from law school had years ago described the feeling exactly.  I tried to push myself up with my hands on the sides of the tub. Futile. No movement, no strength. I recall saying out loud, “I’m in trouble”. 

Water from the shower streaming down on me, here came Cosmo - my hound hero! Trying to pull me out by my hair, he stayed by my side, licking water off my face and shoulder, kissing me, checking on me. This gave me enough confidence to take a breath and think - grab  the terrycloth bathmat with what feeling I had in my right hand, drape it over the tub and then myself over it, and “worm” my way to the phone! 

He never left me. Not to be bested, Lucia later proved her loyalty by jumping through the bedroom screen to chase the ambulance that got me to Gates for lifesaving medical care. 

But it was Cos who proved to be my lifeline in my time of need. Hard to believe that was 10 years ago now… he was really still just a babe then.

The day my friends and family brought him to the neurorehab where I was inpatient in Erie, PA was a tear jerking reunion. 

I was so worried my sensitive hound boy Cosmo would  never forgive me for leaving him. The last time my hound kids had seen me I was taken away from our home on a stretcher by strangers. I had been hospitalized at Buffalo’s stroke center  in a coma for a month,  transitioned to a top-notch rehab center in PA for two weeks. Who knows what my hound kids thought? Had I abandoned them? 

Instead, the moment the nurse wheeled me into the lobby, and my friends and sisters brought both of my hound kids in on leash, they ran right for me, excited. Cos checking my trach opening and kissing my face, Lucia trying to climb onto the wheelchair and into my very weak lap.  All was forgiven! Joy and happy tears. No better medicine. 

Made possible by my sister Jule and my brother in law Jim, I was able to go outpatient by the end of that month and Cosmo and Lucia stayed with me in PA.  Such an important support for my recovery, Cos slept right by my side, spooned against me, Lucia on my other side. 

He was my comfort and confidence again when I returned to Niagara Falls to transition back to taking care of myself at home, completing PT and eventually returning to work, fully recovered.  

Five years later, as a fully grown adult - he endured my sister Maura’s illness and death with me. We visited the nursing home together often.  We also brought Lucia and Trouper, before adding one more rescued hound to the mix, Belle the wonder tri-pawd.

He supported me throughout. 

He knew my pain - we communicated without a word. The night I knew we were losing Maura, I came home and got in bed, sitting up - he was at the foot- observing me. I said not a word. He softly, quietly, and uncharacteristically, climbed into my lap and curled up. I wrapped myself around him, my hands resting in the soft fur of his neck and began sobbing all over him, heaving with emotion, realization, and release. 

He just let me. He knew. He comforted me - just by his presence - more than any human ever could.  

Phase 3: Cosmo - “My Boy”  is sugar-faced now.  We made 13 this past July.

Becoming thinner in stature, a bit stiff and wobbly in his back legs when he rises - this strong old man can still take off with a blazing tear after a squirrel or bird in the Big Yard.  

“Cosmo the Athlete” keeps up with our 6 year old Bluetick, Belle on his best days. 

But I am seeing signs of age.  He’s had a few accidents in the house that I wanted to ascribe to his fear of storms, but my heart knows otherwise.

He can be a bit of a curmudgeon at times. He wants the couch,  and often Mama,  to himself these days.  No girls allowed - Lucia and Bella Belle need not apply. We lost Trouper 2 years ago, so that competition for my time is no longer a worry, but if he could admit it he’d tell you he kind of misses that old sweet boy too. 

I stop to kiss him on his fabulous hound snout one too many times for his liking some days. A natural reflex as I become increasingly aware we must cherish every moment.  

He never refuses an ear rub, though. That always elicits a patented pleasant low grown followed by a relaxed sigh.  Every time.  

In that moment, I too exhale…and my heart floods with memories of our time together.

God only knows the number of our remaining days together. That is a question I can’t bear to begin to think deeply about or attempt to answer. 

As to who rescued who? Well, that answer is clear. 

Cosmo - my companion, my protector, my boy, my joy, my rescuer. 

My Heart Dog. 



Sadly, Cosmo crossed the rainbow bridge on March 4th, 2024