my dog is one of my best friends. she is 10 years old, but i don’t think i really appreciated her friendship until two or so years ago. maybe because i moved away from home and realized how much i missed her, how much i had enjoyed her company. i guess i had taken it for granted that i could pat her and hug her every day. i took it for granted that she would flop on the floor of my room each night as we went to bed. after moving away, i realized that i talked to myself…before i could pass it off as “talking to the dog.” now it just seemed kind of weird. but mostly my dog has taught me to communicate, love, and feel compassion/commitment to a non-human. to feel a real relationship to a non-person. when i come home to visit, i make sure that i spend time with my family and friends and my dog. i feel like i have disappointed myself and her if we don’t get quality time to take walks together and hang out. she can’t text me passive aggressive things like, “well thanks for telling me you were in town. . . “, but she communicates her feelings to me in her own canine way. i have learned to read her moods (she makes them pretty obvious, she is heavy on sulking going so far as to ignore me completely when she sees me pack my bags to leave again). she, unlike the typical stereotype of dog, is not unconditionally loving of me no matter how i treat her. she lets me know that she’s not just an accessory to my happiness, that she has a life and needs of her own. if i ignore her, leave her, brush her off, then she will do the same to me. and when i snuggle her, talk to her, spend time with her, she’ll grace me with her cheerful presence and stay by my side showing me that she appreciates me too.