The other day I stopped for an almond latte and while waiting in line I overheard two 20-somethings at the next table.

One guy said, “My family flies in tonight and they asked to stay at my place for two nights.”

“How long will they be here?” his friend asked.

“Nine days! I agreed to the two nights, which I didn’t really want to do, so they must be thinking: ‘Why can’t we just stay nine?’”

Even if you shrug off familial responsibility most of the year, during the winter holidays, your goose is cooked. While you’re tidying the guest bedroom and struggling to find matching wine glasses, remember family can be a good thing. It took two dogs to remind me of that.

My 80-pound rescue American Bulldog, Molly, has velvet-soft ears and a gentle demeanor. On the other paw, my mom’s jet black Husky, Storm, is a macho guy straight from Alaska. When the two met, Storm told Molly to go back where she came from by biting her cheek. Blood was drawn. A scar was formed. A sour beginning, indeed. Molly plotted her revenge and the next time they met, she bit his face. He’s lucky not to be sporting an eye patch.

Hoping for reconciliation, I walked them together on weekends. The attacks ceased, but they never played. If one had to be a guest at the other’s house, neither seemed terribly pleased about the arrangement, rather like the guys having lunch beside us.

One weekend as I walked Molly and Storm we encountered a beefy brown Labrador. Storm’s lips curled up in a warning growl. The Lab’s owner failed to notice that his dog had focused on Storm in a very menacing way. Within seconds, the Lab’s owner found himself being dragged across the park. Storm barked and threw himself around while I struggled to pull him back. Suddenly, the Lab twisted out of his collar and charged across the grass at Storm.

“No, No, No!” I screamed helplessly as the Lab chomped down on Storm’s neck and buried his teeth into Storm’s fur.

Storm stared up at the sky as if in prayer, as if to say “Oh, no.”

Out of nowhere, Molly tugged hard and I felt the leather leash slip from my grip. She brought around her ample jaw and wrapped it around the Lab’s thick, brown neck. She shook him like he was a shake weight.

The Lab instantly released Storm and Molly let go of the Lab. I recovered the leash and got out of Dodge. When I got home, something odd happened. Storm and Molly began to run and play. The close shave brought them closer. They might not have liked each other before, but they now realized the value of family.