Okay, I’ll try not to alienate animal lovers of the world here because I know we’ve all got our own special little friends.

I grew up with cats and seriously thought they were the most fascinating animals on the planet (domestically speaking).  Their purring, their delicate bathing habits, their bird-stalking in the backyard.  There’s something particularly graceful about the way a cat walks across a room that still catches my attention.  (Unfortunately it also has me grabbing the tissues and makes my eyes itch horribly, but so it goes.) 

I have BrightSide to thank for introducing me to the love of a dog and, at the risk of sounding like all crazy dog folks, there’s simply nothing like it.

(Yes, I see the irony.  A lifetime of mocking people for gushing over their dogs has come back to bite me, but whatever…it’s worth it.)

Disclaimer:  I have to admit, it’s not like Gracie’s an easy dog…sometimes she makes me absolutely insane.  She steals our food.  She eats everything that’s not nailed down.  This dog has done actual structural damage to our home.  But when push comes to shove and you’re feeling blue, she comes through every single time.

My furry family brings a level of love that’s beyond words.

When we come home, whether we’ve been gone hours or days, they are overjoyed to see us.  We are the prodigal sons, over and over and over again.

Each morning Phoebe waits to see what I’ll do once the kids leave for school.  If I sit at the kitchen table to eat breakfast and drink my coffee, she’ll settle at my feet to keep me company. If I settle on the couch to start my day, she’ll snuggle up close and get some morning love.

When the kids get off the bus they’re greeted by a large, furry dog draped over the couch, one who’s thrilled to see them walk through the door.  The other one watches them carefully, tail thumping happily the moment the kids make eye contact.

When Bear comes home hurt from jumping on a trampoline or playing football or (fill in random accident of the day here) and sits on the couch to ice a body part, there’s always a dog snuggling up to comfort her.

When life’s got me in the trenches and tears are flowing, the dogs are always at my side.  One is pushing up alongside me, snuggling in so I can rub her soft fur.  The other shoves her nose against my face or hand, forcing me to acknowledge and accept her love.

These dogs remind me every day that love is given freely, without requirements or checklists. They love us simply because.  Their love is their gift.

Do I sound like a crazy dog lady now?  Probably.  But these furry members of my family have loved me unconditionally, through thick and thin, and I am ever so grateful for that.

My post as part of Colline’s My Gratitude Project.