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Every time I come home from work, I know I'll be greeted by the warmest brown eyes you've ever seen and a sloppy, wet kiss.

It isn't from my husband or kids. It's from my dog.

And for a brief moment, no matter how challenging my day has been, everything is right in the world.

It's amazing how having a pet, especially a dog, can boost your mood. Studies show petting dogs not only increases your oxytocin, a neurotransmitter that calms your nervous system down, but also lowers your cortisol, the stress hormone.

A high school in Walled Lake recently got its own therapy dog, a Labrador Retriever named Dakoda, to reduce student anxiety and boost self-esteem. And school officials say it's working.

Maybe we don't need more antidepressants in the world. We just need more pets. 

I've always been a dog person (and I love cats too) but for several years, my husband and I made the conscious decision to not have any pets. Our nine-year-old dog died five years ago after a series of tough health issues and I put my 15-year-old cat to sleep in 2013 after he developed bone cancer. 

As much as we loved our animals, it was nice not to deal with constant wads of pet hair in the corners or on our clothes. There were no expensive vet bills. And we could take off for a weekend without worrying about a kennel.

Last year, my son, who was eight at the time, begged us to get another dog. He'd learned how to write persuasive papers in school and wrote essays about why he wanted a dog.

One night, he cried while getting out of the bathtub.

"I'm learning about persuasive writing at school but it's not working," he wailed.

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"I'm trying to persuade you to get us a dog but you won't," he cried.

At that point, it clicked. The timing was bad, finances were tight and we'd just moved into a new house. But I didn't want to wait anymore. It was time to get a dog. 

I knew what kind of breed I wanted -- a Golden Retriever -- and knew it was important to get just the right dog, one who would be great with kids, especially our special needs daughter. 

Our last dog, a rescue from the Detroit Humane Society, loved us but was lukewarm to our kids. This time, I wanted the right temperament for our family and knew a Golden would be a good fit.

I reached out to several breeders before we settled on one outside Port Huron. I told her about my kids and she said she had a litter of puppies from a mom who was very calm and loving. We met our puppy's mom and several weeks later we picked up our puppy.

Loading him into car to drive the hour back to our home in Oakland County last fall, he looked at me with his brown eyes and rested his furry little head on my lap. I knew we'd found the perfect dog.

Earlier this month, we celebrated our beloved dog's first birthday in the only way you can. We had a dog party. My husband -- who our furball favors over everyone else; I call them soul-mates --  made a dog-friendly cake. We put on party hats, took pictures and sang "Happy birthday!" Our dog promptly ate his hat.

My son tells me everyn day how happy he is to have a dog and I know he means it. He looks in our puppy's eyes, rubs his belly and tells him, "You're the best dog ever." And he is.

mfeighan@detroitnews.com

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