There’s one question I get asked strangely often: Do you have kids?

I don’t, but I do have a dog. And he’s awesome.

I’m a firm believer that having a dog makes one’s life better. I adopted my dog Bentley, a crazy-colored Australian Shepherd, about a year ago and have had more fun in that time than during any other I can remember in my life. He’s my constant companion and I can’t imagine spending a day without him.

The moment my morning alarm goes off, he’s up on the bed and by my side. He waits patiently until I’ve got my act together and am out of bed and then we go for an early walk — the highlight of my day. It pains me to leave him behind anytime I go out and when I do I am absolutely consumed with guilt. I wouldn’t blame him if he gave me the cold shoulder when I get home from any excursion, but he never fails to wag his tail and race around with excitement when I do.

Talk about a warm welcome.

One thing I’ve found is that Bentley gets me to spend more time outside. Some of you may know how much I enjoy my outdoor time and since adopting my dog, I’ve discovered and explored all sorts of parks. In the past, I was content to wander around just one or two parks nearby, but I now know every trail in every area park like the back of my hand. It makes for fun hikes and afternoons with friends, but you can bet my dog is always the first to be invited.

Dogs never fail to infuse a little laughter into life as well. Each dog has his or her quirks, but mine is in a category all his own. He sleeps flat on his back with his paws in the air. He dreams of chasing rabbits. He knows how to box. And he burps straight in my face.

Needless to say, my boy has quite the personality.

Lastly, dogs make a great social elixir. With Bentley’s help, I’ve met all kinds of great people at the dog park and elsewhere. As I mentioned before, he’s a unique looking dog and that never fails to start a conversation with a stranger who wants to know all about him. I’ve made a lot of good friends with the help, and good looks, of my dog, but he’s still my best pal and he always will be.

Happy birthday Tuesday to Stephanie Franklin of Sherman; Tisha Taylor of Van Alstyne; and Bernice Bevels of Fort Worth.