In my world, today is a very special day. It began pretty much like every day has for the past eight years: me and my dog going for our morning walk together. It was what I consider a perfect winter day. It was cold but not freezing, with light, fluffy snow falling from the brightening sky. The kind of snow that looks beautiful on the trees, is great for building snowmen but too wet to stick in the street. As Hayley and I doubled back and made our way back toward our house, I noticed our tracks in the snow. Two sets of prints, side by side. I couldn’t help but smile and think that’s how the last nine years have been for me – always someone at my side.

Today is the day (or so I believe) that my dog, Hayley, was born nine years ago. She adopted me when she was about ten months old and has shared every aspect of my life since. I sincerely have to credit her for everything that I treasure most in my life. My job, my wife, my kids . . . all thanks to a homeless pit bull.

Seven month before I got Hayley my life was a mess. I had a job I hated and my girlfriend had just broken up with me. It was probably the saddest time of my life. After a few months throwing myself pity parties I finally decided to do something productive and volunteered with a local rescue group, helping out on adoption days. After only a few weeks around the dogs, my attitude changed. I felt alive again – more so than ever before. Homeless dogs who had nothing gave me more than any human could.

Anyway, to make a long story short, I fell in love with a white pit bull named Casper, but by the time I convinced my landlord to let me have her, she got adopted. I was devastated but not deterred. I quickly went to Petfinder and found a few similar pooches and in two weeks Hayley joined my life.

Three months later, thanks to Hayley’s unconditional love, I finally felt that I might be able to have another human relationship and I met my wife. Hayley actually shared my first kiss with Michele, as she poked her head into the front of my Jeep as I was saying goodbye after a mid-day date in the park. Hayley also inspired me to write a novel – something I had started a few times but was never motivated to continue. She is the hero of my suspense thriller, Dog Spelled Backward, and the focal point of the book. Then, years later, she inspired my once again – this time, with my career (or lack of one). I’ve had a number of careers throughout my adult life, but nothing I felt that I wanted to do long term. But after seeing how much Hayley has improved my life, it became clear that I had to help other achieve this kind of relationship.

So here I am now: a dog trainer who is happily married with twin girls. I owe all this to Hayley. I feel really bad for anyone who isn’t a “dog person” because they will never have that unique relationship that only a dog can provide. Dog’s are the only creatures on this planet that are never judgmental and freely dole out unconditional love 24/7. People who don’t have a dog will never experience this special bond and understanding that only a dog can give you.

So, happy birthday Hayley. You have given me so much more than I can return to you. Thank you and I love you.

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