99. happy third birthday, chiefers

The long hot of the day had ended, but the heat hadn’t burned off. It was warm for the first night in half a year.  

I opened the driver’s side door, and he climbed over to the passenger side. He was patient as he waited for me to roll down his window. After two years with each other, we have certain understandings about things. The window is one of them. The towel that hangs next to the back door, blackened by the dirt that never made it into the carpet — that’s another.

He set his head on the window, resting an ear outside. When he sits like that, a world of smells can drift by his nose. Sometimes, he’ll close his eyes, his nose in overdrive, for the length of the drive.

I stretched my arm into the night and took a lazy left onto Ellis. Tick meds. Now that it’s warm, I have to get back into the habit of treating him. They make his skin crawl, and the thought of him escorting them into my bed makes my skin crawl.

A and I took him to the reservoir for his birthday, and I was disappointed that I didn’t realize until days later that during the trip, he was a literal Reservoir Dog. He got peanut butter for breakfast, half a pork chop for dinner. And he was too tired to move after a full day of hiking. That’s a pretty good third birthday for a pup, right?

Coffee in hand, I turned my music up and drove past my street. He was enjoying the night as much as I was. No need to hurry.

Dogs are funny. Having one, or even how you treat one, says as much about you than anything else. A good dog, who listens, who loves and knows… What’s better than that? What does that say about you, about your capacity for love and patience? Am I patting myself on the back too much for taking a West Coast farm rescue and turning him into my East Coast wingman?

When his legs got tired from propping himself up, he curled into a ball on the seat. Dog geometry is so naturally abstract. That was my cue. I looped back onto Lander and pulled into the driveway. He perked up. Home. He ran ahead of me to the front step and licked the hand holding the coffee when I dug around for my house key.

Ten years. That’s the goal. Good dogs, healthy dogs, get ten years. Anything else is frosting on the cake. He’ll get gray around the muzzle. Maybe the hips will go. The geometry is untenable. His eyes will cloud up, and one day he won’t retrieve. There will be a vet appointment, a shot, an easy lasting sleep. Tears. Later, much later, another pup.

But not yet, buddy. Not for a long time.

Happy third birthday, Chiefers. Thanks for everything.

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