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My best friend

Julia with Kona, who she got a year ago.

One day, I got home from school to find a message on the machine from my journalism teacher. She told me that the school paper had decided to publish an article of mine, and that this was the first time that they had ever published something from a freshman. I started screaming, “Yippee! Oh my God!” and running around the room. My dog, Kona, came over, and I grabbed her front paws and danced with her, laughing and skipping around the room. We were the only ones in the house, and we were having our own party.

Kona’s always there when I need her. Even though she’s not a human best friend, Kona is still very special to me.

My sister and I wanted a dog ever since we were little kids. My dad’s allergic to dogs, and my mom joked that if we got a dog, then my dad would have to sleep in the garage. I knew that the chances of getting a dog were very slim.

Eventually, my family learned about a breed called Wheaten Terriers, that are hypoallergenic and don’t shed very much. After tons of research, we contacted a breeder and got our first dog, Sundae, when I was in sixth grade.

Sundae was sweet and funny. She would carefully eat treats out of my hand because she didn’t want to accidentally nip me. She loved to chase squirrels, and she ate almost anything— cheese, eggs, broccoli, quesadillas, you name it.

After about a week of having Sundae, my parents decided to spay her because my parents didn’t want to deal with taking care of multiple puppies. They took her for the operation and came home with devastating news. The surgeon had discovered that Sundae had cancer.

How could this happen to us? We had waited so long for a dog.

Sundae went through rounds of chemotherapy and surgery to get rid of two tumors. When a year passed without a tumor, we thought everything was fine. But then my dad discovered another lump.

We tried treatments again, but it didn’t work. I cried many times when I thought about losing her. Despite the pain, Sundae was the bravest dog I’ve ever seen. She never seemed sad, even though she wasn’t feeling good. She was still sweet and gentle as ever, despite her sickness.

When my parents told me that we had to put Sundae to sleep, I hugged my dog and cried for about an hour. I felt like Sundae was my best friend, even though we had had her for only a year and a half. Sundae would listen to me when I was upset. When I fought with my parents or had problems with my sister, I liked talking to Sundae because she was a good listener. She seemed to get what I said. How could she go, just like that?

When my parents pulled out of the driveway with Sundae in the car to take her to the vet, my sister and I stood on the porch and cried. We baked blueberry muffins to try to cheer us up, but I still felt empty inside.

A few months later, when my mom asked me if we wanted to get another dog, I said no. I was still hurting, and I was afraid that if we got another dog, then we would be disloyal to Sundae.

“Mom, I think she’s going to be mad at us,” I said.

“Think of it like this,” my mom replied. “We will be getting a cousin of hers. That will make her happy. She would be glad that she helped all of us learn to love a dog.”

I was upset about the idea, but I still loved dogs, and I decided to look with my family at an adoption website for Wheaten Terriers. They all looked really cute. After seeing the website, I felt that it might be OK to get another dog. I realized that I loved Sundae, but these dogs needed good homes too. It took a year to find a dog on the website that was from California, since the dogs are from all across the country.

We got Kona when I was in eighth grade. Kona was 10 months old and still a puppy. She was bubbly and full of life and constantly on the move. At first, it was hard to get used to having another dog in the house. I felt like Sundae was watching from above and was mad at us, despite what my mom had said. It was even hard to get used to saying her name. All of us have called Kona “Sundae” accidentally.

I think that time helped with getting used to Kona. I would spend time with her when my family and I went out on weekends to parks and on walks, and whenever I got home from school, she would come rushing to the gate, barking and jumping around with her tail wagging a million miles a minute. I feel loved whenever I walk in the door.

Julia with her first dog, Sundae.

Now we’ve had Kona for a little over a year. What is so special about both of them is the friendships I had. Sundae was strong when she was sick. Sometimes when I’m upset, I try to be strong like her. She inspires me to be brave. Kona is always energetic and happy, and if I am in a bad mood, like after I get in a fight with my parents or after a hard day at school, I can take her out in the backyard and watch her run around in circles, picking up her back legs and doing a bunny hop. It makes me laugh, and temporarily forget what’s troubling me.

I think that dogs really understand emotions. This year, I didn’t get a part in the school musical and I was really upset, so I lay my head down on Kona’s back. She looked at me with her big brown eyes, and I felt like she understood me. One time I was happy because I had gotten a good grade on a test, and I was excited when I walked in the room. Kona took a toy and grabbed it, shaking her head and swinging it around while leaping on and off of the couch.

One day, my friend sent me an e-mail telling me that she had just gotten a dog and had to put it to sleep two weeks later. She was very upset. She said that her parents were hesitant about getting another dog, but that she really wanted another one. I sent her an e-mail back. I explained that when Sundae was put to sleep, I never thought that I would want another dog, but that Kona helped me see that getting another dog can help. “It makes you see that having a dog is such a joy and it really makes you a better person,” I wrote. “Not getting another dog because we lost the previous one would have been a huge mistake for my family and me.”

My friend never wrote back, but I like to think that I helped her and her parents. If I hadn’t gotten Kona, I’d be missing out on one of the greatest things life has to offer—a dog. I still think about Sundae at times, and I imagine her watching over all of us. But now I have another friend to talk to, laugh with and spend time with.