On Thursday, I lost my best friend for the last 13 years, my dog Sadie.

I was at my internship when I got a text from my dad asking me to give the house a call when I was home. My realization that it wasn’t the typical check-in call came quickly.

“It’s Sadie,” my Mom said.

The Golden Retriever, Labrador mix had been suffering from neuropathy, a neural condition that caused her pain. Periods of discomfort were common for her in the last year, but Wednesday night was worse. After giving her as much medication as they could, the vet and my parents made the right decision to put her down.

We picked Sadie up from a Mennonite farm thirteen years ago near where I lived in Georgia.  On the trip home I was both awed and nauseated by her. I couldn’t wrap my head around how such a tiny, furry nugget could poop so much in a PetSmart?

I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t appreciate her beyond the fluffy distraction, oodles of Kodak moments she provided and bragging to all of the other elementary school students I had a puppy.

As I got older, and my family moved from Georgia to North Carolina, I began to appreciate Sadie for what she provided beyond the cuteness.

She was there to see me off at school every morning — she was just tall enough to see out the front door — or welcome me home with a thumping of the tail. And boy, did that tail make a noise. Banging against the hardwood, it reverberated through the entire house.

She was excited to see me no matter what kind of mood I was in. And I probably didn’t deserve her unconditional love, especially during those middle school years where I was awful to just about everyone.

Hearing the familiar thump thump thump followed by sneezing meant I was home.

Then college started, and with it came questions about who I was and what my place and purpose was in the world.  But none of that didn’t matter to Sadie.

Certainly, it wasn’t a dog that taught me how to accept myself and others as long as they are good people, but Sadie’s love certainly didn’t hurt.

I’ve changed a lot in the thirteen years I’ve known Sadie, and it didn’t matter to her. Somehow that dog managed to teach me something in those years of countless walks, fetched tennis balls and constant shedding.

In the midst of loss, it’s comforting to know she’s on a beach somewhere fitting as many tennis balls as she can in her mouth.