Writing these articles for several years, even people who don’t know me through training, consulting, behavior, rescue and adoption still read about dogs and stop me to chat at restaurants, on the street and shopping.

Pets are one of our national obsession and I have been in the “major obsessor” category. As pet parents, we spend millions of dollars on their veterinary care, social well being, food, toys and more.

Why? Only those who own a pet truly understand the fullness of the human relationship with animals. They are there to greet us when we come home, comfort us when we are ill or sad, provide medical and emotional support, give us a reason to get up and exercise or to socialize. Their love has no price tag.

Asia, my almost-10-year-old Newfoundland, was not only my dog; she belonged to the hearts of countless Petco customers, children, elderly and sick.

Sadly, she passed away Jan. 29.

I was fortunate to share her with our community. Most dogs are our dogs and they are wonderful and irreplaceable, but Asia in many ways was exceptional in that she did not just belong to me.

I adopted Asia at 2 years old as a return to a breeder. She was returned due to bad knees and elbows. I got her knowing that I was in for at least one knee surgery. At the time, I was not aware that this would be the least of her medical issues.

She came into my life as Shasta, a name I changed to Anastasia, hence “Asia.” She knew her new name immediately and never looked back. Sometimes an adopted dog needs time to adjust. She never did, and was mine from the moment she entered the house. Her new life and mine began that day.

Selective as to dogs she wanted to play with, she made it quite clear that she was a people dog, and her life then became dedicated to that attribute. I was the director of training for the Hos-pets therapy program of Hospice Care of the Lowcountry and needed a dog to work with me in that program.

Asia passed her therapy dog testing and needed no encouragement to then devote her life to working with those in assisted living, in-home hospice visits, and in training other dogs to also become therapy dogs.

Being a Newf, she just naturally loved kids. I began a program at the Boys and Girls Club called PAWS to Read. This helped children to build confidence by reading to dogs.

Eventually Asia became part of a reading program at Bluffton Early Childhood and Bluffton Elementary. This was her favorite day of the week. She encouraged so many kids to read by her calm presence and, of course, she got free belly rubs!

And, there was her Petco presence. Almost everyone who shopped there stopped by to see Asia.

So, if there is a hole in my heart right now people can understand. She went with me everywhere … so much a part of my everyday life. It feels like I have lost part of myself, and so many others whose lives she touched will miss her also.

RIP, sweet girl; see you at the Rainbow Bridge.

Abby Bird is owner of Alpha Dog Obedience Training. ajbird@hargray.com