Pets are a lot like people.

There are so many wagging tails, tilted heads, barks of joy, and contented purrs out there. As a whole, they make us smile and perhaps bring a touch of joy to our day.

We pat them on the head.

Nice kitty.

Good dog.

There are so many people, doing so many things . . . the coworker who brings us a coffee, a friendly neighbor.

We smile. Say, thanks. We offer a wave.

But they’re not all the same, are they? The people. The pets.

I’ve had so many pets over the years. Like the people in my life, I’ve had a relationship with them all. But they don’t all get to look into your soul.

Claim a piece of your heart.

And we never know when we’ll meet one that does.

What sets them apart, makes them special? I don’t think I’ll ever know.

What I do know? Harley.

He’s one of the most special gifts I’ve ever received—sent to me when I needed him most, he saved me when I was more afraid than I’d ever been before. He’s one of the most complicated animals I’ve ever met—happy and carefree, yet the most devout, most protective guardian I’ve ever had.

Dying young is no good alternative, but getting old is tough.

My buddy has had his aches and pains . . . a bum leg, arthritis.

But now he’s sick, and we’re not exactly sure why . . . unable to eat or drink for nearly three days.

A piece of my heart is a few miles away tonight, hooked up to IVs. If I could, I’d sleep there beside him on the floor of his crate so he knew how much I love him, so he knew I’d never leave him, not if I could help it.

I love you forever, Big Boy. Get better.