My dog had a tumor removed from her leg. I saw her this past week because I went home to my parents’ house (an 18-hour car trip). She’s small for a Lab-Rottweiler mix and has pretty brown eyes and floppy brown ears. Her back leg is shaved from the surgery, and she has a funny-shaped bald spot on her rear. The vet couldn’t get all the cancer, though, it’s spread too far. My parents won’t put her through chemo: too expensive, too painful, and she wouldn’t understand.

My dad, Lindsay, and I took Littles to City Park in Denver. We threw the tennis ball, and she sprinted after it. Sometimes she’d barrel role while trying to pick it up. She got down on her front quarters when I held the ball, her tail in the air. My dad told us to take it easy on her, and we stopped playing fetch before she wanted to. She held the ball in her mouth and rubbed it on Lindsay’s leg, leaving puddles of drool and dirt on the denim.

That night, when my dad and I got back from dinner and a movie, Littles couldn’t move. Her muscles shook when she tried to stand. Worried it was the last night I would see her alive, I lay on the wood floor with her, me on my side arched around her back. All of her friends have died: Sonja (Airedale), Sunny (Aussie), and Jazz and Dixie (German Shepherd-Labrador). Old dogs.

The next morning she was entirely better. Dad and I took her for a walk on the Intemann Trail. When we got to the creek she jumped down into it, biting at it with her mouth. She lay on her belly. She came out and shook water all over me; then she rolled onto her back and wagged with her whole body in the dirt and fallen aspen leaves.

Once, at the Y, I gave a tour to a man who was curious to see the inside of the building. We walked slowly. It was hard to find relevant talking points about the Y — his children were grown, he walked with cane (eliminating basketball and the climbing wall). When we breached the double doors of the pool deck, went into the air hot with chlorine, he looked at the bobbing water of the lap pool and said, “My wife would have loved this. She was a beautiful swimmer.”

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