KENNEBUNKPORT – There has been a death in our family and we want people to know. Our beloved Melanie touched and enriched hearts up and down the byways and beaches of the Kennebunks, and people should know who she was and why she mattered.

We hope that it makes no difference that she happened to be a dog.

Melanie passed away at 14 years, 5 months. She was surrounded by loving family gathered on blankets on the floor of Mann Veterinary Clinic, holding her paws and stroking her as she was gently put to sleep.

It was Melanie who found us at the breeder, where we had already selected the one classic-looking golden we sought. As we were leaving, I looked down at my shoe to find a ball of fluff tugging at my cuff, and just like that we had a second dog, the runt of the litter.

Thus was the beginning of the unbreakable bond between Scarlett the thoroughbred and Melanie the ragamuffin: a kind of Mutt & Jeff. (Early on a vet advised us not to let them bond too closely, lest they fail to bond with us — advice we wisely ignored.)

The sisters’ personalities meshed perfectly, although not what we expected; Melanie made clear that she was Alpha. That was it, end of exercise, no other labels needed in the household.

Scarlett, timid and deferential from day one, found that arrangement to be perfect, saving her from any deep thinking.

So Melanie had first dibs in going through doors, choosing the car seat or being fed the treat, while we maintained fairness when it came to each dog’s basic rights.

Our goldens were true to the breed: gentle, sweet and loving. We were a happy pack that tried to stay together whenever feasible. Our girls practically had Best Western cards, and did have a designated dog car.

As devoted to home as she was, Mel could be the bold adventurer. Once at Gooch’s Beach she got ahead of us at a sand dune, and disturbed a mama fox’s nest.

The fox came out swinging, Mel slowly backed down, and there ensued a comic, leisurely chase wherein neither wanted to mess with the other. This golden never looked for trouble, but stood her ground if she found it.

Scarlett was made to be a dog, but we were never sure about Melanie. She was the brains of the outfit and caught on to things easily, like how to push a swinging door, or how to ride with her head to the wind. Scarlett just looked on in awe.

Mel had her contemplative moods. There were times when I observed her sitting on the couch gazing out at the far horizon.

I think she had figured out that humans had somehow built this world, and it wasn’t particularly dog-friendly, and she was helpless to do anything about it, and that the whole thing just isn’t fair.

While Melanie showed in many ways her love for us, and relished our reciprocation, she always held back a part of her that was reserved for being pure dog.

Fourteen years goes by so fast. Melanie was now on pills for various conditions. this time she was bloated and had lumps and bumps all over, and even our vet agreed that we didn’t want to know what they meant.

Mel held a medal of honor for never having soiled her home. To earn it, she had endured many trips to the yard in drenching rains and snowstorms.

She never did relinquish it, but her trips now were long and frustrating. Sometimes she just dragged herself outdoors.

Gradually, her appetite waned. A day came when she no longer wanted breakfast. One day she stopped eating at all.

We were in close touch with our vet, who was gently guiding us toward the inevitable.

Melanie never complained in any way we could detect. She slept more and took to hiding in places she felt safe, like under our bed.

We thought, go for it. Maybe the Reaper will glance in our window and decide he has better things to do than running down an inconsequential little dog that’s not hurting anyone.

In the end it didn’t work, and we had to be complicit in silencing her brave heart.

Darby Conley said about dogs, “It’s hard to take over the world when you sleep 20 hours a day.”

Wherever you are now, dearest Melanie We hope you become the one to pull it off.