When I lie down on the couch tonight to watch TV, a tiny, precious cat will curl up in the nook of my arm, purr loud enough to wake the dead, and bite my hand if I dare to adjust my position in a manner of which she does not approve. When I go to bed, a sweet little dog will wrap his body around my head like a towel, snore directly in my ear, and, if the mood strikes—sorry for this—pass gas noxious enough to strip the bark off a tree. For good measure, he’ll also make sure I’m up at the crack of dawn by licking my face and/or grooming my hair until I agree to rise and feed him.

Pets are the best, aren’t they? They give us love. They give us affection. They stare at us, wagging their tails, wondering. They give us amazing photos to share on Instagram. They ask so very little in return.

As a small way of saying thanks, we’re giving them their own issue of the INDY.

The INDY does a lot of special issues, but none has gotten our staff as excited as this one. By popular demand (in our office, anyway), and for no good reason otherwise, we even included a selection of our staff’s pets, where you can see the aforementioned nippy cat (Rita) and gassy dog (Sebastian). And because we want you to share in the joy of pet ownership, we’ve included pictures of dogs available for adoption at the Animal Protection Society of Durham, too.

After you find your new best friend, we want you to share them with the world: Leigh Tauss hips you to some of the Triangle’s coolest animals to follow on social media, while Lena Geller tells you about the best places to have a drink with your four-legged companion.

I’ll tell you about my Corgi-Golden Retriever, Belle, and her difficult diagnosis. If that bums you out, Brian Howe has the antidote: He spent a week trying to keep a Japanese virtual pet alive, and he made a solid case for why he should never be made responsible for a living creature.

Finally, check out our very first #INDYpets photo competition, in which we asked you to send us pictures of your furballs. You obliged, and we judged them.

Buckle up and get ready for cuteness.

Here’s a preview of what’s inside:

About a Girl: How a Dog with Cancer Taught Me to Never Take Love for Granted

These Six Dogs from the Durham County Animal Shelter are Looking for a Good Home

Are You Following These Instagram-famous Triangle Pets Yet?

The 10 Best Local Bars to Get a Drink With Your Best Friend

Your Pets Are Great, but Ours Are Clearly the Best

Meet the Winners from the Inaugural #INDYPets Photo Contest

What to Expect when You’re Expecting a Virtual Pet

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