Wherever I drive, Luna sits in the back window of ‘Thunderbolt,’ my trusty old Toyota. She keeps an eye on me in the rearview mirror, blinking slowly into my eyes when I glance at her. (Her: ‘I’m good, how about you?’ Me: ‘I’m good, too. Thank you Luna.’)

Luna Unullisi, therapy dog

She’s a service dog – which Luna says means that I’m here to serve her. This works out for both of us, because I love to find ways to make her little teeth show, all the top ones and all the bottom ones, in one fine, goofy Luna-grin.

What makes Luna smile: dancing on her hind legs, front paws waving. Learning new things. A run on the beach followed by good eats. Me.

She was a therapy dog before she got her official ‘Dr. Luna’ badge from Pet Partners, keeping me laughing when times got rough and sitting close when I needed comfort.

Luna Unullisi, therapy dog

Luna at the dog park on Whidbey Island

When we visit a hospital Luna is serious and effective, like any professional. She is not troubled by smells, beeps and tennis balls on the legs of walkers going by. She is alert to the ailing. I watch her give them her slow blink (‘I’m good. Are you OK?’) and then slide her eyes to me, letting me know we’re in this together, this cheering up business.

Things to know about Luna: she’s a Gemini, almost three, and from Cuba. Well, not really from Cuba, even though she says she’s an Island Girl and a little Chiquita (and has the attitude to prove it). She’s a Havanese, and a damn great one – like a bottle of champagne, bubbly, light and intoxicating. She is at her best reeking of dead fish, sand stuck in her girly parts, with burrs and brambles tangled in her tail.

Luna Unullisi, therapy dog

In a house where someone has died, she is quieter than usual. Respectful. She lies against my ankle while I listen and write notes. She agrees to help by letting the Sad Ones stroke her soft fur. (Hair, she says. Not fur.) She’s pretty good with sorrow, accepting and trusting that everyone is just where they need to be.

She’s not perfect. (Luna says that goes both ways.) She is who she is: Luna Unullisi, gymnast, grief counselor, jokester, Thunderbolt navigator, biologist. Dancer, prancer, dirty dog, ‘I’m OK – how about you?’ dog.

She’s here now, telling me to get up and stretch my legs. ‘Best to do that outside, get some air,’ she says. ‘I’ll come along and make sure everything goes OK.’

That Luna. She’s a helper.

Luna Unullisi, therapy dog