[dropcap]S[/dropcap]adie is my niece. A furry piece of chocolate with an open-mouthed smile. She belongs to my wife’s brother, and sister-in-law.

She’s a family fixture.

Let me rewind twelve years: I didn’t know Jamie well. I was a stranger, trying to make a good impression on her parents. It wasn’t easy. Her mother didn’t say much. I had to repeat my sentences to her daddy.

This chocolate pup parked herself by my feet.

She knew how to make me feel welcome.

A few years later, family vacation: I was newly married, and I’d just lost my job. Not a great year. I thought the world was out to get me, I did a lot of feeling sorry for myself. She trotted beside me on beach walks. Clever Sadie knew better than to baby me.

Over the course of time, Jamie and I moved into a bigger house. I remember it like yesterday. For once in our young marriage, we could afford the internet. That same year, Sadie had a mess of puppies. The first photos we received by email were puppies.

Another year, after my back surgery: Sadie went on vacation with us again. I had to stay inside, I couldn’t do much moving around. The old girl laid by my feet most of the trip.

She knows things.

I saw Sadie last week. She’s old. Her face is dandelion-white, she limps more than she walks now. But she makes you feel welcome with that open smile of hers.

When you pet her, you smile the same way.

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