As a girl who grew up on a farm in Oklahoma, we never had indoor animals. Farm life meant animals stayed outside. I never envisioned that I would love an animal as much as I love my Maxie.

He saved my life. Not literally, but figuratively.

I carried a photo of a West Highland Terrier in my wallet for many years, dreaming that one day I would have a Westie of my own. When I decided it was time, I researched online and with very special input from my niece, out of many Westies, I found Max. I had reached a time in my life where I was alone, after being married for 12 years, and needed a companion; a companion who would be faithful and true and love me like mad.

Max flew from Arkansas on a Delta cargo flight and arrived at the Jacksonville airport five years ago. The moment I took him out of the crate that day at the airport was one of the best days of my life.

This adorable little fluffy ball of white named Max came to live with me in my home in Avondale. He immediately adapted to the neighborhood. Max enjoys his walks, as we go wherever he tells me we’re going to go. We go to the shops and restaurants, where the owners are sweet enough to let him linger in their stores. At restaurants, they bring him water outside while waiting for dinner. He “lovingly” barks at all who come walking or running by our home, desperately needing to speak with whatever or whomever is outside passing by. Squirrels and cats make him absolutely stark-raving crazy. He stares for hours waiting to make his move and pounce on them. To his dismay, he’s been unable to actually get his paws on one.

Max became the “baby” I never had. There’s a million ways that little man thrills me. Sometimes I feel a little guilty that I didn’t rescue him, but just the reverse happened. Every time that I walk into my yard through the back gate, it’s like going back to the airport and opening up that crate five years ago all over again. I am greeted with love that I needed and craved. I’ll be honest; there’s no feeling like it in the world. At this very moment as I am typing up this essay, I am riding home from an amazing weekend of celebrating a dear friend’s birthday out of town, but, oh, man, I am looking forward to opening that gate.