My dog, Dexter, is my never again. After losing my Cocker Spaniel, Brandy Noel, my heart was so very shattered that I promised myself I would never again allow a dog to enter my life and my soul in that way. I soon learned that I could never NOT love this way again. Dexter is my never again. Loving a dog is like breathing to me: It is second nature and an involuntary reflex.

Moreover, loving a dog is a life mantra. I even trademarked the saying, “My Heart Beats Dog™.”

Years ago at a pet blogging conference, I approached a mural. There we stood, dozens of us, waiting to etch a sentiment about our affection for animals on a 2×3 or so piece of paper.

My heart beats dog rolled off my fingertips.

“Did you just make that up,” the gentleman behind me quipped.

“Well, yes, it’s how I feel,” I replied. “My heart beats dog.”

He told me I should trademark it. And so I did. It’s mine.

And maybe it’s your mantra, too. What does it mean to have a heart “beat” dog? I am certainly not alone in this canine cardiac rhythm.

Dogs are more like us than not but they are not humans. Dogs are the best of us when the worst of us breaks our hearts and lets us down.

I embrace a passion for dogs and that passion somehow in this crazy, messed up universe so very perfectly found its way to me. A little girl once lost found her forever home in dogs.

My life is a celebration of dog and their time on Earth, a mere flicker. Poof, we blink and it’s gone. A heart that beats dog is all too keenly aware of its ability to break, and oh how it shatters.

Every day is Christmas with a dog. It’s a true celebration, a present waiting to be unwrapped every day. Cliche, but true.There’s a secret unspoken club for us dog lovers of the highest order. On fortunate days, we find each other: At parks, pet-welcoming stores, on vacations, and at traffic lights. Dogs sniff, we smile. Ages are exchanged, stories are passed on, and dogs bring strangers together, even for a moment.

“He’s 12 and he’s my baby.”

“I swore I’d never get another and never again. And here’s never again.”

The words change, but the feelings are the same: Those who love and have learned to love more richly because of a dog carry a light in their soul. We have hope when the world goes crazy: Dogs want us in it. We are welcome in their worlds. They celebrate our existence. The circle of life is pretty darned special with a dog in it.

Dexter is a Cocker Spaniel who has wrapped himself around my heart and laid claim to it. He is special in every way, and I am blessed to call him my son.