I can’t believe it’s been 5 years this month that Kiva and I have been together. She’s been with me through two big moves, three jobs, trips to Boston and Vermont and Oregon. She’s loved all my people and she’s loved me too, not always an easy feat.

I almost don’t know what to say about this occasion, though I feel like something should be said. Everything that I can think of seems so trite, so oversaid. We are such a dog-obsessed culture that there isn’t much new out there.

Of course, I love Kiva for all her doggy ways: her velvet ears, her inquisitive nose, the exuberance with which she greets the morning. I love her steadfastness. I love her loyalty. I love that she doesn’t know what an asshole I am sometimes; all she knows is I feed her and pet her every day and that’s good enough for her. I love that she leans her body against me, like she thinks I can hold her up.

But I also love Kiva for the direction she gives me. I can’t stay in bed all day because she needs to be walked. I feel safer with her, especially walking at night. She teaches me steadiness, consistency. She’s taught me about unconditional love, something that I suspect is not possible between humans, but might just exist for her, and I admire that unconditionally.

I remember when I first got Kiva, she seemed totally wrong for me. I didn’t know how to handle her, she jumped on and licked everyone, I felt like I’d never be able to settle her. My dog school instructor told me later that they almost decided to switch me to a different dog. One of the old ladies in my class with no filter and fabulous comedic timeing told me she was sure after the third day that I was going to quit. But I didn’t quit. One of the things I love about Kiva and that I value so much between us is that we didn’t give up on each other. I know now to pick my battles. I’m sure she picks hers too.

Kiva will be 7 in June. I can’t quite believe these five years have gone so quickly. Soon I know I’ll have to think about retirement and whether I want to get another dog. I want to cry every time I think about it. When I first got Kiva, I’d wanted to cry at the thought of the responsibility of caring for and training her. Now I don’t ever want to let her go.

To my Kiva: thank you for being with me, guiding me, loving me even when I am at my worst, greeting me every day with a joy that is catching. I love you. You are truly the dog of my heart.