The best part of my day was coming home to my dog, I looked forward to it every day. I'd get off the bus, walk up my long driveway and there she'd be, sitting and waiting patiently, right at the limit of her electric fence. When I'd reach her she'd run around in circles, making herself dizzy as hell. She'd prance next to me as if to say "Come on! Hurry up! Let's go play!"

I grew up with a black Labrador retriever, her name was Nike, like the Nike swoosh. She was my best friend for 12 years, a faithful companion, an important member of the family. I really didn't know what life was like without Nike.

When I was little, I used to pretend Nike was a horse. I'd attach her to a leadline, wrap her paws up with ace bandages, brush her teeth with chicken flavored toothpaste and try to make her eat hay. I'd walk her out of the garage (the stable) and pretend to "turn her out" to the pasture (my front yard). Believe me when I say, this dog put up with everything, in fact, she loved it. She'd sit perfectly still and stay where I told her to stay — she was the world's best horse-dog.

In the summers I'd enter Nike in the "Pooch Pagent," which was a little dog show my town used to hold once a year. I'd bring her in the ring and have her jump over some hurdles. Of course, we always won first place.

Nike had a long and exciting life, but watching her grow old was the hardest thing to watch. She became tired and slow, and her little chin hairs turned white and grey. As time went on, she developed a disease that left us with a very hard choice. Three days before my high school graduation, we had to put Nike down. We gave her a bath, painted her nails hot pink and said our final goodbyes.

Nike's legacy lives with us every day as she looks down at us from heaven. My mom said we could never get another dog to replace her but time went on and we missed having a furry ball of love in our lives. I came home from college my sophomore year and received the best Christmas present I could ever have imagined. A little white nugget of a puppy who would carry on Nike's legacy and walk in her pawprints. Her name is Lulu, she's a yellow lab and believe it or not, she is blood-related to Nike.

Lulu is quite a riot. As a puppy, she used to sleep in my dad's UGG boots and fall asleep sitting up. There is nothing more calming than holding a sleepy puppy.

Lulu is now full grown but still acts like the 2-year-old puppy she is. She's what we like to call "the sock bandit" due to her little habit of taking peoples' socks off their feet. While you're sitting at the table eating dinner, Lulu comes up quietly and nibbles so gently at the end of your sock until she can pull it off and take it to her hiding place.

Lulu has a long life ahead of her, and our family is so lucky to have such a sweet, loving presence in our lives.

Dogs really are the best. They will love you unconditionally. No one in your life will ever be happier to see you than your dog that you just left at home for a few hours. We can learn so much from dogs if we just pay attention to them. Dogs see the problems, the stress and the sadness that we may deal with in our lives — they can sense it better than anyone.

The best thing about a dog is that they don't know how to hate. All they know how to do is love, and sometimes that is exactly what we need.