Dear Fur Baby,

Before my arms were filled with wiggly babies and rambunctious toddlers, there was you, my first snuggly love. Four legs of rescued perfection, you prepared me for motherhood long before babies were on my mind and grew my capacity to love and nurture.

You've kept me up all night with your sweet, whiny cries and demands to be fed and let out to potty. Even at my most tired, it'd only take one look into those sweet puppy eyes to know I was completely wrapped around your paw. As I sleepily made the trek down three flights of stairs to stand outside in the cold Colorado winter waiting for you to do your business, I reminded myself these days won't last forever.

And speaking of sleep, I've lost a lot of it worrying about you. Is your poop supposed to be that color? Did that mean dog at the park break your confidence? How will you cope without me while I am on vacation? But you are resilient. You just love being loved and little else matters. Well, except treats. And squirrels. Squirrels matter a lot.

You gave me a reason to live for more than myself. There's no staying out too late when you have a puppy at home. And kibble doesn't pay for itself, nor do those expensive trips to the vet when you've eaten too much goose poop, so I worked hard to create a good life for us. Yes, weekends watching Netflix are fun. But what's even more fun is having adventures and seeing the world through your eyes.

I've cared so much about what is best for you. I've sat in circles with other puppy parents as we discussed the latest and greatest in fur baby parenting. I never wanted you to look back at your life and deal with the emotional baggage of a mom who didn't give you enough freedom, or heaven forbid, fed you conventional dog food. But it was always important to me that you had the manners of a gentleman with a true sense of adventure and unwavering loyalty. While I helped lead the way, you mastered these on your own and you've done well, buddy.

I've trusted you as I've made some of the biggest decisions of my life. Should I take this job? Does it offer enough flexibility and dog-friendly policies? What do you think of this guy I went on a date with? Does he seem nice and smell okay? I quickly learned to trust your intuition and you've never led me astray. You wagged your way down the aisle in front of me when I said "I do" to the man of our dreams and it became known that there was no event in my life big or small that you wouldn't be a part of.

I've learned unconditional love from you, and it would be a couple more years down the road when I'd start to dream of what that love could look like in human form. You patiently sat with me in the bathroom as I counted down the minutes until I saw those two pink lines appear on a pregnancy test, and then you were my steadfast friend, fully committed to joining me for nine months of leisure on the couch as my belly grew, for two different pregnancies. And when those babies came home, you eagerly embraced the role of big brother, protector, guardian, comforter, and entertainer as our lives became fuller than we ever could've imagined.

Parenthood has brought out the best in both of us and my kids are just as lucky to know you as you are to know them. You've grown from just my companion to the gentle soul who balances our family. We need you. I need you. I count on you nosing your way into the baby's room each night to keep me company as I nurse him to sleep as much as I count on you to greet me every morning with an invitation to scratch your belly. As I find myself stroking your head whenever I need a breather or reaching for the leash when I need a break, I notice that each person in the family turns to you to fulfill a need that only your saintly presence and wet kisses can satisfy.

On the occasional rough day, I'll sometimes reflect fondly on the years when it was just the two of us, free to do as we wished, and allow myself to miss them. But then I will allow myself to feel the fullness of the life and love that has stemmed from a young woman in her 20s adopting a little yellow pup and whisper out loud, it's a good life, fur baby. It's a really good life.