The furry, feathered, scaled, hooved and loved. 1

Welcome back to one of my favorite issues all year–The Pets. I am an unabashed dog lover so this is just a whole month of thinking about great ways that I can describe my interactions with my two dogs, Indiana Jones and Short Round. Short Round joined our family last December and it seems like she has always been here, playing, fighting and keeping our lives interesting. Indy and Shorty are right there by my side for every deadline, story assignment and writing session, the best coworkers ever.

Although personally I love my furry companions, this year I wanted to focus on the people that choose more exotic pets. While a dog or a cat may be the easiest option, Jackie Kincaid shows us that birds can be just as entertaining. Her African grey parrot, Cowboy, is  just a teenager in bird years and he shows it with a library of more than 100 sounds that he uses to entertain and interact with her and her family.

Stanley the bulldog may be a canine but he’s a dog that’s teaching lessons each day. Stanley was born with a cleft palate and since his surgery to correct the medical part of his condition, he has been helping the kids of Deborah Pack’s school class learn what it means to be different but still okay. He even has his own day, declared by the governor of Missouri!

And Changing Leads Equine Rescue shows us that sometimes rescue animals can heal volunteers as much as volunteers heal them. The home for mistreated horses has helped to rehome and rejuvenate more than 50 horses since its inception and they aren’t slowing down.

Animals connect us to what it means to love unconditionally. There is nothing more comforting than seeing a beloved pet–be it dog, cat, lizard, spider or ferret–look to us as their favorite person in the world. They teach us to care, to maintain and to foster a relationship with another living being, even if they can’t talk back. If you have a pet, go hug them today (unless it’s a fish) and let them know how much they impact your life.

Happy September!