I never thought I’d own a dog. I grew up one of nine kids, and the last thing my exhausted parents wanted was another dependent in the house. By the time I married my husband, an only child whose big-hearted mom took in stray animals with abandon, I’d long decided I didn’t want a pet anyway — and all the smells, shedding, and vet bills that came with it.

Motherhood changed that. When our daughter turned 5, she asked for a dog. Saying yes made sense: A pet would teach her about compassion and responsibility — what parent wouldn’t want that for her child? That’s how we adopted Blackie, a sweet female border collie/lab mix who was rescued by a friend and needed a family.

The day Blackie moved in, my kid’s heart exploded in joy — and my own heart exploded in wonder. Blackie rounded out our family in ways I never knew were necessary until she loped through our house like she already knew its rooms. She was gentle to a fault, patient with children, friendly to all, and, when we went through hard times, leaned into our legs as though to hold us up. We adored each other with unconditional, uncomplicated love.

By the time Blackie died, in our arms as we wept goodbye, I knew I’d always have a dog. I didn’t want to miss out on all those feels. That’s how Carmen, the rambunctious 4-pound Yorkie, came into our lives.

The best thing about my “dog story” is that it’s not unique. This region is loaded with humans and dogs who enrich each other’s lives immeasurably. You’ll meet some of them here in PupSide, a special edition of The UpSide, The Inquirer’s weekly good-news section that celebrates the best of us, and the best in us.

So get ready to feel the puppy love.

Sit. Stay. Read.

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