With a government shutdown looming, and crises swirling around us, you’d think I’d fill this space with words of warning, despair, and frustration. Instead…I want to talk about something—someone—far more important.

It’s Hazel. She was the runt of the litter...tiny, weak, and sickly...but we fell in love with her the minute we saw her sad little face. Hazel came home to live with us late in 1996, a full year before my daughter was born, and quickly proved to be a well-mannered and obedient dog. She was far from affectionate, but still, very good company. Hazel would wait on the front steps, seated next to my son Alex, as his school bus came every morning. As the bus door closed, Hazel would stand and come back inside the house, as if she was satisfied he was safely on his way. Instinctively, at around 3:15, Hazel would go back to the front steps, and be waiting as Alex returned home.

Of course, as Jessica grew through her toddler years, Hazel endured all kinds of humiliation, like the Hallowe’en costumes and silly dog jerseys my boisterous daughter would pull over Hazel’s long, crooked Jack Russell legs. Hazel was OK with city life, but it was when we moved to the country that our family friend  would find her place in the world. As my father-in-law acquired Beagles as hunting companions, Hazel seemed to take them under her wing, patiently teaching each puppy the ropes of “doghood.”

A few years ago, it became apparent that age was catching up with our 4-legged child. When her new “sister” Julie arrived—a Cairn Terrier with unlimited energy—Hazel chose, not to engage, but to keep her distance. Her eyes failing, and her hearing already gone, it was apparent that—one day soon—one of Hazel’s long afternoon naps would be her last.

But, sadly, it wouldn’t be that easy. Last Thursday evening, while no one was looking, Hazel wandered away from her beloved backyard space under our shade tree…and the frantic search began. My wife Susan finally found her Friday morning. We placed Hazel’s body where she’ll always be nearby, but never as close as she is in our hearts. You know, a lot of people have said to me, “well, she lived a long life,” or “get over it—she’s just a dog!”

Just a dog? Obviously, you didn’t know Hazel. People may come and go, but a good dog stays with you forever.