As I have grimly reminded each of my kids at various points in their lives, part of being a family is doing things you don't want to do, if only because you will want them to do it for you one of these days.

This includes going to someone's house to stand on a rickety ladder to clean out gutters, loaning money when the bills show up early and the paycheck shows up late, going to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription when someone doesn't feel good, or the ever-popular helping someone move.

And dog-sitting.

My family has a long tradition of being dog people.

In photographs of my great-grandparents, there are dogs.

My grandparents had dogs.

My parents had dogs.

I've had dogs all my life, all of them good dogs, a few of them great dogs.

My current dog is a great dog. In fact, Rufus is just about perfect.

One of the things I like best is his easygoing personality.

He is laid-back and tranquil when I am feeling quiet or introspective.

He hovers nearby, comforting but not intrusive, when I am melancholy or unsettled within myself.

When I pick up the leash to signal that it's time for a walk, he is bouncy and energetic, but otherwise, he is a very relaxed, kum-ba-yah kind of dog.

You would think I wouldn't miss a dog like that when he's not around. After all, he's not much more than a furry, snoozy throw rug most of the time.

But whenever I travel, I am thankful for my oldest son and his family, who seem genuinely happy to babysit Rufus while I'm gone -- and not just because I reciprocate by taking care of one of their dogs when they travel.

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Larry Joe and Cori have two dogs of their own: Blue and Riley.

Blue is old; if he were human, he would probably be yelling at younger pups to get off his lawn. Blue has earned the right to maintain his routine, so someone else takes care of him when my son and his family travel.

I get Riley, who is young and zoomy; the Tigger of the dog world, if you will.

Rufus and Riley are buds. They chase each other, running like wild all over the yard or through the house or in and out from the yard to the house to the yard to the house to the … you get the idea.

But even better is my grandboy Zeke, who declares that Rufus is his "best friend."

If I am interpreting the code of Roof's wagging tail correctly, Rufus thinks the same about Zeke.

I was out of town for about a week awhile back and was grateful for my son's offer of keeping Rufus while I was gone. He, in return, was appreciative of my offer to take care of Riley when his family goes to Disneyville later this year.

So on the night before I left town, I loaded Roof into the passenger seat of my truck, along with his dinner and water bowls and a supply of food.

Zeke and Riley were thrilled to see him. Blue grumbled at the zigzagging whippersnappers and lumbered off into another room.

I kissed Zeke and Rufus goodbye and went home.

Home where there was nobody to meet me at the door. Home where there was nobody to indicate he was happy to see me. Home where there was nobody to watch in admiration as I kicked off my shoes. Nobody to gaze adoringly into my eyes as I turned on the radio. Nobody to curl up at the foot of the bed to protect me while I slept.

I like traveling, and it is made easier in knowing someone is taking care of my great dog Rufus with kindness, love and care. I am thankful in knowing my kids understand that's what family is for.

But one of the things I like best about traveling is coming home again -- not only to see my family, but also to see my dog.

Because it just isn't home without him.

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