Our Ibizan hound, Pepe Chulo, is definitely a part of our family, but we still argue about his exact role. My youngest daughter calls him her "little brother" and lets him snuggle on her bed at night. Of course, by rational extension, she then insists that my husband is Pepe's "father." My husband, who has occasionally been seen hugging the dog and even telling him he loves him, vehemently denies that Pepe is his "son," insisting, "He's a DOG!" I stay out of it and just call Pepe "the little guy," though he's not all that little.

I am less charitable when I see a telltale ring of dirt around his muzzle that signifies a forage in the compost heap. But I admit, he relies on me. Even though my oldest daughter is in charge of feeding him, he stands in front of me with a searching look when it is that time of day—our suppertime, when he eats, too.

I'm his designated troubleshooter for big problems as well. He once ran into the icy Baltic Sea while chasing seagulls on a cold German beach and froze when he realized his terrible mistake. In a panic, he looked at me with stricken eyes, silently imploring me to "do something." I encouraged, then pleaded, then yelled at him to come out. He wouldn't, or couldn't, budge. So I had to strip off my pants and haul him to shore. He was very grateful and gave me a shower of saltwater.

But all in all, Pepe's an OK dude. Like everyone else in our family, he does what he can. He's quiet and clean and doesn't make any extra laundry. When it's cold, he's always happy to join in a warm snuggle. He takes us for long walks and helps to keep us a little more sane. By his peaceful nature, we've agreed he's the best Buddhist in the family, and we try to follow his example.

—Melanie Phipps-Morgan, Heikendorf, Germany