I’ve written this column before, had it on the page and pulled it at the last minute. The hurt was a little too fresh to share, I think.

My daughter’s beagle, Suzie, passed away in her sleep early Wednesday morning. She’d been sick for awhile, but we weren’t prepared to say goodbye.

People call their pets “fur babies” and similar things, but that isn’t quite right. Suzie’s place in our family was so much different. She never had any sort of training, but she was the best therapy for a kid who grew up with health problems.

She didn’t play like most dogs, but would do things like nudge her head through a necklace my daughter would hold out, calling it a “pretty pretty.” And then Suzie would wear it for hours, not allowing it to be removed. She would take care of Emily much like a mama dog would a puppy, bringing her dog food, a blanket and, one time, even taking money from my purse to give it to Emily.

With Emily’s heart condition, there would be times when she was pale or her lips would get a little blue. Suzie knew, and would push Emily to a chair and sit on her lap, not moving, until the episode passed.

She would hold Emily there, putting her paw on Emily’s bicep and waiting, patiently waiting, until all was well. When Suzie got older and started to slow down, Emily painted her paw, transfered it to a canvas and took it to a tattoo artist. She will always have Suzie’s paw print on her bicep now, reminding her to slow down and take it easy.

I’m sharing this for a few reasons. One, it helps to remember the happy times — and those were Suzie’s specialty.

And more importantly, there is nothing like an animal companion. Suzie was a great, non-judgmental sounding board, a great companion and a shining example of unconditional, pure love.

That little dog was exactly what Emily needed through some of the hardest moments of her life.

A few weeks back, I wrote a story about the McKean County SPCA being full of animals awaiting their forever homes. Take a chance. Visit the shelter. If you aren’t ready to bring a pet home, volunteer to take a dog for a walk.

And take that time to pour out your heart to a good listener who will never gossip about your secrets. Pets don’t judge you and don’t care if you are being petty — like talking about how Jane’s shoes don’t match her dress.

For folks who prefer cats, the shelter has plenty of felines as well. Stop and visit. Take some time to play, or cuddle, or just pet a cat until you’re rewarded with the rumbles of a heartfelt purr.

I tried desperately for years not to fall in love with Suzie. We had a border collie — a rescue, adopted from the shelter. She was a nervous sort, but she was mine. There was no doubt in our household who she preferred.

I work nights, and when everyone else left for the day, my Shy girl would climb in bed with me and we would nap for a few hours. I was a wreck when she passed away, but I wouldn’t trade a moment of the time I had with her. It’s the same way with Suzie.

It has been scientifically proven that dogs reduce your blood pressure, reduce stress, stave off depression and help keep you fit and active.

Stop by the shelter. You will be making a difference in two lives — the animal’s and your own.

Marcie Schellhammer is the Era’s assistant managing editor. She can be reached at