WILKES-BARRE - We are gathered here today to remember all dearly departed pets.

We are especially here to remember Sambo "Sam" Arnold, the deceased macaw of Donna Arnold, of Nanticoke.

This is not to make light of the deep sorrow the Arnold family is feeling. This is to acknowledge the loss of a dear family member who brought joy to his owners, his family, friends and countless others in his 13 years of life.

I have lost a pet or two and I know of many who have, as well. The loss of any loved one is not an easy thing to deal with.

Heck, I just pulled the plug on an electronic loved one - my RCA 35-inch TV of 25 years. I still haven't been able to discard it.

Donna came into the Times Leader building the other day to submit an obituary for Sam. She talked about her beloved pet, noting he "flew into heaven on Christmas" and "died in his owner's arms."

Donna said Sam was a "service bird" - he apparently brought great joy to senior citizens and special needs children over the years as he was well known throughout the region.

Donna said Sam was preceded in death by his parents, Flo and Sarge; his brother, Edgar; and a "loyal dog Trinity." Donna said Sam was a member of St. Francis Church, Nanticoke, and a former member of St. Maria Goretti in Laflin.

There will be a service for Sam at 2 p.m. Wednesday at 252 Farrell St., Plains Twp., with Rev. Joseph DeFazio officiating. Light refreshments will be served.

It should be a nice sendoff for Sam and a chance for those who knew him to pay their respects and reminisce about his life.

In lieu of flowers, Donna asks that donations be sent to animal-related charities. For more information, you can call her at 570-235-1889.

Donna is grieving the loss of her loved one.

Animals can provide great companionship and they display unconditional love. They are there when you need them and they are totally dependent on how you treat them - when you feed them, when you take them out, when you give them treats.

My cat, Lily, is 17 years old. She is, like most cats, her own wonderful self. She is all white and not very affectionate. She enjoys being petted, but only on her terms. She loves treats, but only certain brands and certain flavors.

But she's always there. As soon as she hears the garage door, she waits at the top of the steps to greet me with a few meows and welcomes some head scratching or belly rubbing. She then follows me around until I find the time to feed her or give her a treat or two or 10.

Lily and I also had Becky with us for a couple of years. Becky was a white Bichon Frise that was the most lovable little dog I ever knew. Even Lily loved Becky - they would often nap together.

When Becky was near the end of her life, we had her put down. It was an emotionally draining experience. I still miss that little dog.

I have friends who have cabins in the woods. They have designated areas where family pets are buried. Those spots are considered sacred grounds.

It is not unusual that Donna is distraught at the death of Sam. She's hurting and coping with her loss by remembering her loved one this way.

Wouldn't it be great to be able to wave a magic wand and find good homes for all the homeless animals in the world? It would brighten not just the lives of those animals, but the lives of their new owners, as well.

Any animal would be fortunate to be able to be placed in a loving home with a caring owner like Donna.

I hope a lot of people show up to pay final respects to Sam. I hope they donate to the organizations Donna has selected to help homeless animals.

An animal can be a human's best friend.

Rest in peace, Sam.

Reach Bill O'Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.

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