I grew up with a big dog in our life. She was aggressive and over the years, I would shy away from dogs that didn’t fit in my lap. I would cross the street rather than walk past a big dog, whether it was on leash or not. It wasn’t a conscious thought; I just didn’t feel safe in their presence.

My “married-into family” (because in-laws sounds horrible and they are family frankly) always had a big dog. I remember going to visit. I would seriously time my visits to when I could hide behind my husband. I was terrified of their “baby.” Moving into our own home and raising own babies, I still found myself almost frantic whenever I faced with a big dog. That fear wasn’t rational but fears don’t worry about that, do they?

I remember at one point my sweet husband adopted a dog from his work and she had puppies in my kids’ pool in the backyard. I watched in utter horror as more “big dogs” were joining the world. He was amazing with them: finding them homes, introducing our children to them, etc. But once, he was running late and asked me to feed everyone. I cried. I literally cried as I inched out the back door and cautiously approached the group of dogs in my backyard. When the momma dog raised her head, I remember tossing all the food at her feet (half a bag) and running back into the house. You just can’t explain fear.

I’m not proud of that either. It would be years in the process. For as long as I can remember, my sweet better half has always wanted a bird dog as he loves to hunt birds. We are a hunter family, stocking meat in our freezer to use year round. But every time he mentioned a bird dog, I would smile and nod, but inside, I knew that a bird dog would be a big dog.

Years would pass and occasionally my husband and the girls would joke about what they would name their someday bird dog. I’m not sure at what point it became more about what would make him happy than what scared me, but we got on a waitlist for a genuine bird dog.

Max would join our family and turn everything upside down. He was a little ginger colored maniac. He hated the word “no” and he ate everything — genuine leather boots, a chair leg, an entire piece of baseboard at the top of our stairs — nothing was off limits.

I kept my distance at first. I let the better half and the girls take the reins. I petted him awkwardly from a distance and occasionally tossed him a treat. I was so outside of my comfort zone, but my family was so happy with him, so I crept on.

It would be a year later, right after his birthday that I got the call. The better half would be traveling for two weeks and I needed to come get Max. Max worked with him every single day. At the time, I was two states away settling our kids into a school and he was working on-site. I was comfortable with Max in our family at this point, but I had never spent time one-on-one.

I pep-talked my way there. I was going to make friends with my husband’s best friend and be there when they both needed me. I could do this. Little did I know that Max would become my best friend in the process.

Our first day on the road, he slept in the front seat the whole way. Occasionally going potty whenever I stopped to stretch or gas up. He was a great travel companion. We pulled into a hotel at dusk that first night. And I was so tired but I loaded him and all our things into the room before I just collapsed on the bed. I woke up in the middle of the night, with a sweet big dog wrapped up around me keeping me warm and protecting me. We cuddled and the next day, we were like peas and carrots. He’s my favorite “person” and he is protective of me. Max did that.

— Kalynn Brazeal is a conservative, Christian wife/mom/country girl carrying around an MBA, several decades of business experience and a strong opinion. Now living in the remoteness of North Dakota, she continues to share her column on life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and cake. She can be reached by email at kmbrazeal@icloud.com.