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an old dog

Jan Pennington took these pictures for us last year because our lab, Schooner, is getting old. He lags behind us on walks now and groans over sore joints whenever he flops down. Pete & I have our seventh anniversary this month, but it really feels like the life we’ve made together started with bringing Schooner home as a puppy in New Mexico eleven years ago. Some people mark the first years of marriage by a place or a first house, but ours are all tied to a brown dog. Schooner’s photo was our save-the-date postcard, he lived with us in third story apartments in Seattle, he rode along on drives up and down the Alcan Highway. He was equally miserable the summer we spent finishing the cabin in Uyak Bay. He hates loud power tools and raised voices. His presence in the house means that arguments end just as we realize we’re fighting, when Schooner’s tail sinks between his legs and he leaves the room.

I took him for a walk today, and maybe it was because I’d just read Diane Ackerman’s essay about the beauty and decay of falling leaves that I was thinking about change and the significance of ¬†endings.

“In time, they will become fragil, and, like the body, return to dust. They are as we hope our own fate will be when we die: Not to vanish, just to sublime from one beautiful state into another.”

Maybe the anticipation of winter and the waning light has me sad today. Or maybe it was the realization that¬†Schooner’s lessening mobility and his last, slower years happen to parallel a kind of settling down into this stage of parenthood and life–working, planning, compromising. I’m nostalgic for the sunlight and warmth of the Southwest in the fall, for long drives to new places, Schooner at our feet in the tent, nights we watched for trails of light across a deep, still sky.