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Dear Buster,

I never thought we would get a dog, and yet here you are—an integral, irreplaceable part of our family of five. You have filled a void in our household that we were not even aware existed.

RELATED: 8 Reasons Every Family Should Get a Dog

Here are my top 13 ways in which you make our lives so much richer and more incredible, including the lessons you teach us. After all, as I like to remind my kids, learning lessons is fundamental to living. 

1. You alleviate our stress.

Rubbing your head and tummy is akin to therapy, but cheaper. And the best part is you love it, too—you seek out snuggles and tummy rubs. It’s as win-win as it gets. 

2. You make any bad day better. 

My favorite example is watching one of my boys stomp—or worse, trudge—shoulders slouched, into our house after a not-so-great day at school. Maybe one of his friends snubbed him. Perhaps he bombed a test. Or maybe he just has a ton of homework hanging over his head. In any case, he invariably lightens up as soon as he sees you—you’re usually at the back door, greeting them both with playful, gleeful barks before they’ve even set foot inside, tail wagging like an upside-down pendulum at maximum oscillation. Within a minute, as I trail in, all I see is the aforementioned unhappy child lying on the floor with his head right next to yours, a smile playing on his face as his troubles, at least momentarily, fall by the wayside. Often, after a moment with you, those issues don’t seem quite so insurmountable anymore. 

3. You teach our youngest child what it’s like to be a big sibling.

I had never seen that side of my then 9-year-old because he had never had occasion to be an older sibling. When you arrived, I saw in his eyes for the first time genuine care, compassion, and concern for another being—a very small and vulnerable being. He learned how to feel and be protective. Four years later, I still love seeing this side of him that takes care of you, worries about you, and loves you like the little brother you are to him.

4. You teach our kids responsibility.

Walking, feeding, training, and generally caring for you were all added to their list of chores when you came into our lives. They surprised me by not complaining as much as I had thought they would. I guess they know how worth the extra work you most certainly are. 

5. You are the quintessential eternal optimist.

You inspire us to do what you have always had down pat—finding the brightest patch of sunlight and just reveling in it.

6. You are always there for us, physically and mentally, literally and metaphorically.

This is invaluable. It warms our hearts and lifts our spirits to know you would never let us down, stand us up, or change your mind about wanting to be with us. You are an anchor and life raft we can always count on. 

7. You are always in the same (great) mood.

Unless you’re not feeling well, which is not often, thankfully. Your “teenage” years have come and gone and nary a hormone out of place! I wish the same could be said about us fickle, unpredictable humans.

8. You make me a better mom.

You keep me in good spirits when I’m near you (which is most of the time) and lift my spirits when I’m “in a mood.” You help me to more quickly reset and smile at my family when they’ve annoyed me, or when I’m simply in a funk. I am generally more positive and less moody because of you, and for that, my family should be extremely grateful! 

8. You teach our oldest child to be gentle.

He is not naturally a gentle child—he is loving but in a wrecking ball kind of way. And yet, to see the tenderness with which he handles and interacts with you, to see him balk and intervene when he feels like his dad is playing too rough with you . . . it just melts my heart. 

10. You protect us.

Well, as much as a 9-pound fluffy little white-ish thing can. It’s the thought that counts.

11. You help us find the fun.

I hear “I’m bored!” less frequently because my kids know I’ll respond, “Play with Buster!” Which they do. You keep our lives fun and the atmosphere in our home dynamic. There is always energy in the air when you’re around. Which is all the time.

12. You live in the here and now.

You do not think about the past. You do not hold grudges. You do not worry about the future. You teach us to try to relish the very moment we are in, to center ourselves. Yoga ain’t got nothin’ on you, buddy.

13. You eat whatever I put in front of you, without fail.

No one else in our family does this. I should elevate this one to the top of my list, but I wanted to save the best for last. 

In spite of some dander allergies (which are under control now thanks to a brilliant concoction of modern meds), and in spite of my initial reluctance due largely to said allergies, I am so grateful to my oldest son, then 10, for not relenting on his “Why We Definitely Need a Dog” pitch—a tireless campaign that lasted months.

RELATED: So God Made a Dog

I often think about how short your life will be, not because I enjoy being morbid, but because it reminds me to appreciate you every day and, by extension, to appreciate the rest of our family every single day.

Life is short.

Life lessons, indeed.

Thank you more than words—we love you so much.

Snuggles and kisses,
Your adoring family

Connie Cumming

Connie Cumming grew up in Bethesda, Maryland before going to college at Columbia University in NYC where she graduated magna cum laude in 1999. She went on to take on various roles in finance and later executive recruitment in New York, Singapore, and Hong Kong, before returning to the US in 2011 with her beloved husband and two little boys. She currently resides in the suburbs of New Jersey with her family, including two not-so-little-anymore boys and their crazy pooch.

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