This week’s issue is one of our favorites around the Indy newsroom. We might knock heads over politics, music, movies and who gets the last slice of pound cake in the break room, but when it comes to the subject of our companion animals, we are all total softies. We tell furkid stories, we petsit for each other and occasionally take sick leave to stay home with an ill family member of the non-human variety (shh, don’t tell the boss).

So what’s really fun about the Dog Days issue is that it’s a chance to throw open our pages (and our Web site) to share readers’ stories and pictures with the larger community. These essays are a celebration of the companion animals we share our lives with. This year, read about Aloha the turtle, our gorgeous cover model, and Beaky the buzzard (a piece by repeat contributor William Patterson, who last year brought us the story of Dweezil the wonder monkey). Rejoice in the rescue and rejuvenation of Agnes the rat, and read about Katie, the dog who saved her owner from a nefarious painter.

In addition to the celebration, this year we bring you a look at the more serious side of the companion animal worldan accounting of what happens to the pets who aren’t lucky enough to find forever homes, and a call to do something about it.

North Carolina policymakers are, right now, grappling with two major pieces of the pet overpopulation puzzle: the proliferation of large no-kill shelters and how to regulate them; and the rules and regulations governing the use of carbon monoxide gassing in euthanasia, which many believe is inhumane, but which is still legaland used in 38 of our 100 counties.

In “No-kill shelters defend practices,” reporter Lisa Sorg looks at The Haven, a Raeford shelter where more than 1,000 dogs and cats live in pens, kennels and cagessometimes all their livesand explores what the state is doing to regulate it and similar shelters. In “Use of gassing challenged,” Sorg chronicles the debate over gassing, and exposes a conflict of interest by one official.

Both of these issues have their roots in the same problem: There aren’t enough homes for all companion animals. It’s time to face the reality that the pet overpopulation problem isn’t going anywhereand time to do something about it. In “Work together to end euthanasia,” read how other states are tackling the problem, and actually solving it. Raleigh-based nonprofit AnimalKind, whose executive director Beth Livingstone penned this op-ed, is taking a lead role in pushing the Triangle toward more effective spay/neuter programs.

And then be sure to take a stroll though our pet stories, and if you have an even better one, write it down: We’ll be back again next August to hear it.