As you read this, I'm probably out with my dog, taking a slow stroll around the neighborhood.
Drew, my family's beagle/boxer pound puppy, is getting up there in years, reaching the ripe old age of 14 last year. He'll be 15 in August. Jaunty he is not, but he still has that personality that he had as a puppy, one that even my father - a man who never wanted to have a dog in the first place - couldn't help but fall in love with.
Because, you see, my dog is the best dog in the whole world.
When I was growing up, my dog would be standing in the living room window as we turned down the driveway after walking home from the bus stop, watching the road for me and my two brothers to appear.
Now, my dog always greets his family at the door with a wriggly tail and a little prance that we have dubbed "the happy dance."
My dog used to wait until everyone left the house and then take a nap on the forbidden furniture, namely my bed. He rarely goes upstairs now, but his guilty face still makes my heart melt when he's caught doing something he shouldn't be. Drew has that face perfected, with his ears tucked back and his head slightly bowed. always managing to make his eyes extra watery when he knows he's in trouble.
My dog howls along to the tune of "Happy Birthday" every time we sing it. He's barely able to sit still as someone blows out the candles that top a homemade cake.
My dog carefully nibbles on any new food, examining it to see if it will receive a passing grade. If it doesn't, he rolls in it. He also licks all the frosting off a piece of cake first, then indulges in the rest of it.
My dog once pooped directly into a pair of my brother's shoes. I still have yet to discover what my brother did to him to deserve such targeted retribution.
My dog barks incessantly at basically anyone on wheels. This includes bikers, roller bladers, skateboarders and I'm sure it also now includes those kids with wheels in their shoes.
My dog isn't a huge fan of strangers, and he puts up a fearsome front. But he once barked like a madman when he heard me and my dad drive into the garage, until my dad whipped the front door open as fast as he could and scared Drew into a frenzy that sent him all the way upstairs. He has never moved faster than at that moment.
My dog hates, hates, hates car rides and slobbers all over the place whenever we have to take him to the vet. Once in a while, he gets so nervous he throws up in the backseat. He's always been a little neurotic and has recently taken to pacing the house at night, his toenails clicking on the hardwood floor.
My dog used to sit by me when I was upset, resting his head on my leg, looking up at me with those big brown eyes that are now a little clouded with age. He would sit there for as long as it took, letting me scratch behind his ears until I felt better.
My dog is not your average dog because my dog is the best dog in the whole world and he has taught me many things. The lessons that will stand the test of time, I believe, are the ones that involved the importance of family and the need to get excited about the little things in life. A game of catch. A walk around the neighborhood. A nap in the backyard, the sun warm on your face.
Now that he's old, Drew is a little grayer around the snout, and he can't hear as well as he used to. He needs a little more TLC now. The days of wrestling and playing tug of war are gone. But he still greets you at the door with that same wriggling tail and that same happy dance.
And as he sleeps his way through his golden years, I hope he thinks he has the best people in the world, too.
Editor's Note: Jackie Stark is a Marquette resident and a staff reporter at The Mining Journal. Her column appears bi-weekly. She can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.