It’s been an exhausting few weeks. You’re tired, stressed out, and ecstatic all at the same time. But now that you’re finally getting to visit home for the first time since heading off to college, there’s only one thing you can think about – seeing your family. And, fortunately for you, one (or more) of the members of that family happens to be a dog.

At least, that’s how it was for me. I had never spent so much time away from home before. I was sure my two dogs and one cat thought I wasn’t coming back again. Seeing the pure joy on their faces when I got out of the car that first day back, and every day I’ve come home since then was a beautiful thing. It was one of the first of many things I realized I’d miss when one of my dogs recently passed away.

He wouldn’t be there to bounce around whenever he got happy. He wouldn’t be up to any mischief while I was gone. He wouldn’t beg to go for car rides or spend hours chewing on a bone anymore. And he wouldn’t be there to greet me the next time I came home. The last good memory I have of him before he got sick, was looking back as I was driving away.

Some people don’t understand how much of an impact a furry family member can have on your life. After all, they say, pets can’t speak. They don’t do anything for you, they just run around and chase their tails. Come on, they aren’t even human! These people just can’t see the amazing life that is inside of every animal. Words aren’t needed when you have a strong enough connection with your pet. Not only that - they love you unconditionally. Their loyalty is unmatched and rather envious. I have never met a human in my life who has more love and joy in their heart than this dog of mine did. And while I may have supplied him with the essentials for his life, he made mine worth living. In the end, he helped me more than I ever could have helped him.

I know I’m not the only one who has ever lost a beloved pet. In fact, I’m only one of millions. So while each of our situations is different, there is one thing they all have in common – your pet is in a better place now. I was always afraid that maybe pets didn’t make it to Heaven, that I’d never see my best friends again, but I know with absolute certainty now that they’re alright. I can’t explain it, but the look my dog gave me right before he was gone told me everything I needed to know.

So to all those struggling with the loss of a pet, whether it’s a dog, cat, bird, fish, or anything, know that your friend is doing just fine. Maybe you should even be jealous – after all, they are getting an awful lot of extra time with God up there.

And to Banjo and all the rest of my pets waiting for me up there – I love and miss you and hope you’re having the time of your life. I can’t wait to finally play with you again after you welcome me home to Heaven for the last time.