I am wearing open-toed sandals today… and pink pants.

Y’all – summer is here. The air is muggy. I’ve got no less than five mosquito bites dotting my ever-alabaster legs. And Sandy, our beloved rescue pup, is flopped on the front porch, head resting on her front paws, waiting for someone to take her to the lake.

We adopted Sandy just over a year ago, on a fluke really, and she’s the first dog our family has owned. Owned seems like the wrong word for the relationship we have with Sandy. Rather than feeling like her masters, we all seem to be wrapped around her 9-year-old paw, hustling to refill her water bowl or sneak her a scrap of steak from beneath the dinner table. We constantly coo over this dog, trying to discern the meaning of her looks, attempting to win good favor with a pet or a potato chip, fighting over who gets to rub her ears, sit beside her on the bed (she has full access to all furniture) or hold the leash on a walk. We sit with her in the car, narrating her movements as she leans into a turn or whimpers as we pass another dog in another car on another adventure: pet store, park, school drop-off. 

Sandy has, to put it mildly, changed our lives. As a military family, it never felt right to own a pet and haul it all over the country with our constant moves. By ‘it never felt right,’ I have to be honest and fess up: I never felt like I had the energy or patience to care for another living thing while my husband deployed, while we packed up another house or while I struggled to maintain a clean kitchen with two kids constantly eating meals outside of meal time (that’s a rant for another day). When we finally settled here in the Sandhills, my kids and husband decided it was time for a dog, and though I wavered, I knew they were right. I had images of myself picking up poop in the back yard and feeling vexed that I was alone in caring for yet another thing, but the opposite has proved true. We all love this dog, care for her, feed her and love on her, and she has brought us more joy than I could have imagined.  

As if the Universe isn’t ironic enough in how most of my life plays out, Sandy actually is most attached to me, the woman who feared resenting feeding her and argued on more than one occasion that we simply could not possibly take care of an 80-pound dog. Yet she’s nuzzled her way into my heart, with her floppy ears and woeful eyes, one of which is half-blue. 

This month, we’ve devoted our issue to pets, the animal companions who make our lives richer, who nuzzle us and love up on us and run (or swim) circles around us. We explore the rewards of adopting an older pet (p. 42), one woman’s passion for saving horses – and humans (p. 54) and animal-themed adventures to visit with grandkids in tow (p. 48). Dads and Grads get a bit of love from columnist Ann Robson (p. 64), and we view the world through the eyes of Emily Dickinson’s cat (p. 63). 

And if that isn’t enough: our First Annual Pet Contest Winners are gracing pages 32-38 – all sorts of cuteness, sweetness and personality abounds. 

My own favorite animal is a pig, for which I have absolutely no good reason. I’ll go with Winston Churchill on this topic, however, who said,

“I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.”

Happy animal loving,