Penny, a Boston terrier/cocker spaniel mix, rounded out the family of Tribune Publisher David Clemons and his wife, Carla. Penny died Friday a…

We’ve all had one of those moments when the perfect comeback hits you too long after the fact.

Think George Costanza: “Yeah, the Jerk Store called, and they’re running out of you!”

But several years ago I knew exactly what I wanted to say when I was working for a newspaper group and the publishers met for our annual retreat.

It was dinner on Saturday night and the topic was dogs. We were all discussing our respective pride and joy, passing around the pictures on our phones, when the owner’s husband took a look at my Penny, rescued 10 years earlier from a shelter at a grand cost of $50 — half of it refunded after having her spayed — and sniffed, “That’s not a real dog.”

Two things prevented me from telling this guy what I wanted him to do at that exact moment.

1) I’d only had two beers, and

2) Getting fired 1,500 miles from home seemed suboptimal.

As it turned out, I’d be fired two years later anyway, so I should have gone out in a blaze of glory and defended Babygirl’s honor.

Penny, for the record, was as much of a dog as the one he paid $10,000 for. She wasn’t what you saw in the dog show on TV the other day after the parade. She was so much more.

She was the most neurotic little creature God ever put on this earth, and in that regard she was perfect for me and the lovely Carla.

Ever since I adopted her in October 2003, she filled our home with love, games and energy — even at the end these last quiet weeks as she lost weight and the ability to play her favorite games of chase, known as “I’m gonna get you!”

We had to tell her goodbye on Friday afternoon. It is one of the absolute hardest things I’ve ever done.

We bring God’s creatures into our home and they provide nothing but love and affection. In exchange, Penny just needed, it seemed, the absolute most expensive kibble we could find — oh, and a place to curl up with us to nap.

As hard as Friday was, I’m honored we could be there to tell her goodbye. She gave us so much love in her 17 years. It was truly an joy to have shared our home with her.

She was the greatest dog we could have hoped to have had. Our little Boston spaniel was a blessing.

My only hope is, one day her gray is gone and she can bring me a rope bone to try and pry from her teeth. Being reunited with her would be the best day ever.

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