I got nothing this morning but an intention to practice.

Just as I was typing that sentence, however, I got a text from a friend who is watching the quick decline of her dog. It's a matter of time, of course, for all of us. But Bear, a gorgeous long-haired, big, funny, and exuberant german shepherd is now staring down the last of her days.

It's sad. For my friend, of course -- which brings its own especially acute sorrow to my heart. And it's also sad for me.

Back in my single days, I used to "borrow" Bear after work some days. I'd take her to the river, or out for a walk. I'd never had a dog of my own, and she wasn't mine -- more like a dog-niece. But we had a bond. She trusted me -- even after snorting a few nose-fulls of water when I threw a rock in the river for her to "fetch." And I trusted her, even after she barked and barked at me one day as I was sobbing hysterically over the end of my first marriage.

The stories that her friends will tell of her for years are classics. The chocolate cake that disappeared on its way to a birthday party, despite Bear's being in the back of a car, and the cake being in the next row of seats. The dog friends she broke out of her yard to go visit, blocks and blocks away. The dead rotting salmon she rolled in just before Thanksgiving dinner. My friend, one-time, lost for words to keep Bear from running around the house like a maniac, yelling, "Restraint, Bear! Restraint!" (We still laugh about how helpful that would be as a dog -- or kid -- command, if it worked.)

Bear wasn't always endearing -- but some how she's always been deeply loveable.

My dog and Bear were buddies back before my friend's and my real kids came on the scene -- they both got relegated back to "dog" status afterwards for several years. But while Corrina, my dog, can still go unnoticed even under my feet in the rush to meet my daughters' or my own needs, Bear's always captured some part of my attention when I visit. For one thing, she still greets me like I'm arrived to spring her for an afternoon and forgives me when I don't.

That won't happen again, now. She's weak, fading fast. If I don't see her soon, I may not ever see her again.

Today's practice is concluded. I have some place to go.

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