It’s no secret that I have a love for dogs, but I wonder if I ever explained exactly why I love them so dearly. After all this time, I’ll endeavor to explain it now. First, as a species, you’d be hard pressed to find a better creature than a dog. They are pure of heart, honest in their expression of emotions, unabashed in their display of affection, and when bonded with a human, loyal beyond reason. Admirable traits in any companion, those traits in your dog mean you will never be lonely, even if there are no humans around. You will never hear anyone say that about their pet chicken or iguana.

At your homecoming, your dog will be very excited to see you, whether you leave the house for 10 minutes or 10 hours. I work 10-hour days and my Daisy and I have a very fun welcome home ritual at the end of the day. I first spy her staring through the window. She’s been alerted to my arrival by the sound of my car in the driveway, and I’ve learned to look for her happy face in the window. Then, she disappears. She reappears at the gate, prancing, her tail wagging excitedly. When I say her name, she bends low, paws out front, butt in the air, inviting me to play. Then I say, “Well, go on!” and she runs a lap around the yard and then dashes up the stairs. I can hear her paws pounding like thunder as she darts to the top as fast as her legs will carry her and ducks through the dog door. I climb the stairs quickly to avoid a collision because the next part of this ritual involves a robust pouncing. Somewhere in Daisy’s previous life, before she became our dog, she was taught that jumping up was a good thing, which meant we had a decision to make going forward: train it out of her or come up with a safe way to ease her down. The training her out of it was not very forthcoming, so we moved toward giving her an arm to put her paws up on and easing her down to a sitting position, where she is rewarded with vigorous petting and cooing. Because it’s not just we who are the recipients of her enthusiastic greeting style—we have become very adept at warning that she’s a jumper whenever we encounter another person… on the road, or even in our own living room. After the initial chaos, however, she calms down and acts like a well-behaved dog. That is, until she gets the zoomies. Then, it’s hold on and stay out of her way. It may sound like a hassle, and I admit it is something we have to work around, but the quirkiness of her personality makes me laugh every day.

We have had dogs that have shown us that they truly care. For instance, one day our Mimi saw that one of our daughters was upset. There was a gate across the door that was a good deterrent, but despite her advancing years (she was a 13-year-old and a big Labrador), she sailed over the gate and leapt onto the bed, smothering her with kisses. The wet dog slobber therapy worked, too. Who could stay sad with a sweet pup covering her with kisses?

Sometimes I enjoy watching our dogs sleep. Our Daisy twists her body into shapes that make her look broken. Her back legs twist one way, while her front legs go the opposite direction. Her lips go slack and fall away from her teeth and her ears sprawl on the blanket. She can sleep like that for hours, whereas I would need an emergency trip to the chiropractor after a nap like that. Other times, she folds her paws under her jaw daintily, like royalty crossing their ankles. She’s an enigmatic dog full of charming contradictions, and endlessly entertaining.

I have always felt the protection of our dogs—knew in my bones that they would stand between me and danger if they had the power to do so. Luckily, I live a safe life in a safe neighborhood, but it has always given me comfort to know that they would step up to protect me if it became necessary. I am always fascinated by the stories I hear about dogs getting between children and snakes or warding off an aggressive dog, even if it cost them their lives. I think to myself, ‘Good dog,’ realizing that it’s their job. And also recognizing what a shame for that family to lose such a loyal pup.

I should add protector to the list of things I love about dogs, as well as therapist for making us humans feel better when we need some attention. And, of course, God was wise in making them so adorable with their big watery eyes and cute noses. Our Daisy is very beautiful with her snow-white fur, dark eyes and nose, and dark lips that make it look as if she’s smiling all the time. Add in the fact that her fur is as soft as a bunny rabbit, and she attracts good attention from everyone she meets. Include her personality quirks and she will be a companion for a long time.

What do I love about dogs? It’s all the things—from the top of their heads to the tips of their wagging tails.