For most of my life, I've had cats, but now that I have a dog, I'm asking myself what took so long to realize what I'd been missing.

Meet Bella, an almost 10-year old collie mix who is the biggest "love bug" I've ever met. She's my partner's dog, adopted from the Freetown animal shelter back in April 2013.

Now, I will tell you that Bella and I connected immediately and have been the best of friends ever since. We take walks on the daily (if the schedule allows it) and when it comes to listening, she's not too shabby.

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They say that having a pet is not the same as having a kid, but I can attest that they share similar traits. Thankfully, Bella is very well trained and besides a little bit of rough scratching when she wants your attention, she's pretty easy to have around and low maintenance to say the least.

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During the day we enjoy napping together and at night, she cuddles right up against me until I fall asleep. It did take some getting used to, having a large dog in bed, but the love and the snuggles are well worth being a bit uncomfortable for a little while. Just like my everyday schedule, it's clockwork for her. She gets up early when I do, and makes sure to wait for me at the bottom of the stairs when I'm leaving for work for a quick doggy kiss and a hug goodbye before retreating back upstairs to her bed.

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Peanut butter, dog bones and dog cookies are her favorite and if there's a spot in the house where the sun is shining upon the floor, you bet that's exactly where you'll catch her taking a quick snooze. When she's all alone, I tell Alexa to "play Fun 107" for her accompaniment, that way she can listen to "Dad" when he's working on the radio.

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I read somewhere that dogs can't hug (or at least have a difficult time trying), but they can lean against you and that's their sign of affection. Bella is always leaning when she's getting petted and I wouldn't trade that for the world. When it comes to keeping my beard clean, she makes sure to get every last crumb out and she's happy to do it.

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So, yeah, I'm a "Dog Dad" now and I never thought I'd feel such love from an animal, but Bella made sure to knock it out of the park. It's the little things that remind me how lucky we are to have such an amazing dog who's more than just a pet, but a part of the family. As long as she's happy, I'm happy, period.

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