Every day ends the same way.  Before I am even to the driveway, windows rolled up, A/C blowing, and the radio on, I hear them.  They know it’s my car and not the neighbor’s. They run along beside the fence, their voices a cacophony as I silence the engine and open the door.  “Hello, Girls!” I call.  They are ecstatic, beside themselves, desperately competing to be the first in line when I open the back door.

They are our dogs.  Maggie is the eldest, a 12-ish-year-old rat terrier-beagle mix we adopted at the Dog Days of Denton festival in 2007.  Boo is next in line, a 10-ish-year-old Jack Russell terrier-shih tzu mix we adopted on Halloween just a few months after Maggie.   Three-year-old Ellie is our baby giant, a registered collie purchased in a moment of weakness when she was just three months old.

Now that we are empty nesters, I suppose you could call them our kids.  The biggest difference between these happy, furry faces and our children is that I’m not sure our kids were ever so glad to see us!  They have waited all day for this moment.  No matter the kind of day we had or what mood may have followed us home, our girls are happy we’re back.  Such uninhibited, unconditional love such as these dogs give us is a beautiful gift indeed.  And we love them fiercely right back.

Once the kids moved out, our work-life balance didn’t change much.  Early mornings are rushed with walks, breakfast, picking out toys, then getting ourselves out the door.  Evenings once crowded with parent meetings, homework, and baseball games are now about walks, dinner, brushing and petting.  Quality time is still scarce but just as necessary lest our girls slip into a funk.  Puppy loneliness leads to misadventures like taking everything off the refrigerator and shredding magnets, pictures and reminders into unrecognizable bits.  Or perhaps scouring the backyard for treasures like rocks, once-beautiful plants, and logs from the woodpile that fit through the doggy door and, when nosed around the kitchen just so, make a totem to remind us we have been stingy with our time.

Households like ours are looking forward to the Dog Days of Denton this coming Saturday at the North Texas Fairgrounds.  This event is the perfect solution to pup-parental-guilt, and it’s a lot more fun for them and us than mere romps around the dog park.

Dog Days of Denton made two big moves this year.  First, the move from summer to fall means cooler temps.  Secondly, the move from Quakertown Park to the fairgrounds gives  more room to roam.  The good stuff of Dog Days like contests, demonstrations, GlamFur photos, pet fashions, and vendors with every imaginable dog-life-enhancing commodity will still be there, plus some.

There’s plenty to do at Dog Days.  We love the contests most.  Canine Couture Costume Contest, Dancing with the Dog contest, How Obedient is Your Dog contest, disc and other demos, agility course, Pet Tricks, Dog Singing contests, and the popular Spokesdog Pageant.  Some of these dogs are really talented!  Don’t get me wrong; our dogs are pretty special.  They all dance for treats and play fetch, but only if they feel like it.   They are good, beautiful dogs, obedient most of the time and somewhat agile, I think.  They bark, but not one of them sings.  Perhaps if we stretched our quality time, young Ellie might become contest material someday.  However, all three of them are great fans of ultra-talented canines.  And every show needs an audience, right?

Starting several years before we adopted Maggie, I don’t think we ever missed this festival.  We had little Candy back then, a shy shih tzu runt-of-the-litter who shared several lives with me in her 18 years.  She succumbed to costumes one year when Christine Gossett and I took Dog Days on the road to promote at radio and TV stations across the region.  Bless her heart.  I still laugh when I think how precious and embarrassed she looked all foo-fooed up.  What a trooper.  She stole every DJ’s heart.

They say you can move just about anyone if it’s “for the kids.”  Well, this one is for the dogs.  And if you’re missing love like we enjoy in our home, fill that hole like we did with Maggie, then Boo, and finally Ellie.  Every moment is full and none are dull.  They really are man’s best friends.

Get details at dentondogdays.com.