Soon after I turned 30, all I wanted was a house. You can paint the walls, turn the music up a little too loud (even past 9), and you no longer have those upstairs neighbors who consistently wake you up at 3 a.m. by moving furniture around. You may think I’m exaggerating about this…I am not.

But the biggest thing about getting a house was getting a dog. I grew up with pet puppers, and I have always been so excited to have my own. After I got my house, it only took me a few months to find my girl.

I wanted a puppy. I wanted all the chewing, potty accidents, and needle-like teeth I could handle. It also came with a boatload of cuteness.

I was constantly checking Petfinder. And then, on May 5, 2016, I saw this face.

I MEAN.

I was working from home at the time, and luckily we had a not-so-common bit of downtime. My boss, a fellow animal lover, told me to take off and go see that face in person. (FYI, my boss was the lovely and talented Marna Towne, who created this website and is available for your design needs, just visit towne-cox.com.)

I drove an hour to go see her. I figured I’d say hello, get some head scratches in, probably get a couple of bites on my fingers, and then I’d see where to go from there.

When I got to the humane society and they brought out this pup, she ran to me, wiggly, jumpy, so excited. We went into a play room where I got to talk to her and hold her and mildly panic when she peed and there was nothing around that I could use to clean it up.

Before the pee incident, I had already decided I couldn’t go home without her.

Again, I had been keeping an eye on Petfinder. I didn’t know what kind of dog I’d get, or when. So to say I was not prepared is an understatement. I was crazy unprepared! I was about to drive home with a puppy and I didn’t have food. I didn’t even have bowls. I didn’t even have a leash. So after a confusing trip to Petco (with my poor pupper in a cat crate, causing curious customers to peer inside the crate and ask if I had a dog or cat there), I brought her home. I named her Neko.

I selected the name Neko because my pup had somewhat of a heart shape on her chest. And I’m a big Neko Case fan, and her songs have helped me through a lot of heartache in the past. It just felt right.

My Neko’s mom was a Japanese Chin. No idea what the dad was, he bolted without even leaving a note…typical love ’em and leave ’em no-good drifter type he was. But I’m thinking a terrier of some sort. And then later, I find out that Neko means “cat” in Japanese.

I picked her up in a cat carrier, and named her “Cat” in her native tongue. I’m a monster.

She’s forgiven me, though. For all of her catlike traits that I chalk up to my giving her an identity crisis (perching on tall areas, including people, curling up with her tail wrapped around her), she’s 1,000% dog (barkbarkbarkbarking, digging, rolling in heaven knows what in the back yard).

And that lil creature with the heart shape did exactly what her human namesake has done, mended my heart. Over and over again. Every time she snuggles up to me, every time she orders me to stop writing and play, every time she gets sooo excited to see friends on our walks that she does her little happy dance…

Sorry for naming you Cat, pupper. But thanks for being my Neko.