Welcome to the Unconditional Love series, where we bring you heartfelt stories from bloggers around the Web about all of the ways their animals have shown them unconditional love through the years. Be sure to check back each week for a different post — and share your own story for a chance to win $50 worth of pet food.

This week, we talked to Karen Barnett from Paws4Claws. Here’s what she said about her pets:

Do you have a favorite pet from childhood? What made him so special to you?
I have grown up with dogs all my life, but one in particular comes to mind. My mother had 10 multi-colored Silky Terriers that she bred but never sold. One, named Pudgy, was born blind in one eye. I fought to save Pudgy from being put down, and had to kidnap him from my parent’s house to my home in NYC, where I kept him until I was sure I could return him to my parent’s home to live out his life without issue.

Have you ever had a pet that you felt was truly a part of your family?
In high school, my boyfriend at the time (now my husband) had two phenomenal dogs I loved: Cin Cin the Pug and Muffin the English Setter. These dogs, along with many others, were part of my family, and to me that meant they were awarded honorary human status. My now mother-in-law believed the same. She cooked human food for Muffin every day and, like all our dogs, they slept with us in our beds. It never occurred to me it should be any other way. These dogs brought me joy, companionship, comfort, stress relief and unconditional love.

Why is the bond between a person and his/her pet so special?
It turns out that dogs are a kind of wonder drug, and all-around stress reducers. Pet owners recover at a substantially faster rate from heart problems than do non–dog owners, and a child raised with a pet is more empathetic than one who isn’t.

What is the most surprising way your pet has ever shown you affection?
I have two fantastic, large breed loveable dogs–my 8-year-old French Herding Dog, a Briard named Bailey, and a tri-colored Bernese Mountain Dog named PAWS, who is the mascot, Chief Pet Officer and inspiration behind Paws4Claws.

Just 18 months ago I was running to a meeting, trying to finalize a deal to raise funds to keep pet loving families facing home foreclosures with their furry companions. In my haste, I missed the top step of a two-flight hardwood staircase of 18 steps. Bailey was in front and PAWS was behind me. I heard each bone in my left arm and elbow crack and shatter as it bumped down every step, and my shoulder crackled as I tried to shield my head from crashing against the wrought iron rails encasing each side of the staircase.

At the end, I lay crumpled and shriveled at the bottom of the steps. I was home alone, unable to move, bleeding and in unbearable pain. Bailey, sprung into love mode. She continuously licked blood from my face and anywhere else before I could see it and really freak out. But PAWS was more clever and powerful and pounced into rescue and recovery mode. He took my sleeve with his teeth and pulled me, slowly and methodically, towards the kitchen where we had a phone. He then helped me pull the phone to the floor so I could call my husband and tell him to come home to get me.

It has taken two operations, 12 months of physical rehabilitation, ongoing pain numbing patches and codeine to sedate intense pain, not to mention my entire family’s commitment to getting my left arm to work again. Despite all that, it would never have been possible without the love, true heart and, yes, I believe, human souls of my dogs.

Bailey and PAWS saved my life that day, and every day after.

Have a pet that loves you? Tweet us your story now for a chance to win $50 in Iams pet food!

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