Poochie, baby, precious, angel, bubba, are among the nicknames that we affectionately call our dog Dolly. Now almost sixteen and completely deaf, she can’t actually hear us no matter what we call her. But we continue to talk to her as always anyway. And with her big black cow eyes, it almost feels like she’s listening.

Part King Charles cavalier and part English toy spaniel, Dolly is a small dog with a huge heart. In fact, her heart was so disproportionate that she needed to get a pacemaker. Luckily, her heart is still going strong and she continues to keep our hearts full.

Because she was a puppy during my own childhood, in a way she and I grew up together. In our younger days, she played dolls with me, patiently letting me pretend she was a doll that I would dress up and push in a stroller. We played versions of tag and soccer in our back yard or searched for snails and beetles between rocks. She kept me company on the couch while we found shows on Animal Planet that we both watched with equal interest. And if I had homework to finish, she sat next to me as if to help. When my grandfather taught me how to play the piano, she sat at our feet as if listening to us play. Even as she started losing her hearing in more recent years, she still enjoys lying beneath the piano whenever my grandfather or I play the piano. When we brought home another puppy three years ago, Dolly taught the newcomer how to listen to music, how to sit for food, how to greet the mailman, how to play, and how to cuddle.

Ever since her days of puppyhood, she has been one of the most important characters in my life: a family member herself, she even gets her own stocking at Christmas. More than just a dog, she has always been the sweetest companion, most loyal cuddle buddle, and the most willing playmate. So thankful to have her and the biggest thank you to everyone at the vet.