The other day I panicked halfway through our hike up the Marin Headlands. Taylor was nowhere to be found.

The dynamic of our hikes this year have changed dramatically from that of the past two years. Almost entirely off leash now, Taylor lags farther and farther behind than before. The last time we visited Dr Tim, we found out that Taylor had arthritis, something we could hear in his hind legs. Despite the revelation (which I am overly sensitive to, because of what happened with his brother), we left the vet’s offices in fine spirits. Taylor was otherwise very healthy; and the daily activity was doing him a world of good, not to mention my own outlook and health. The stark reality, however, is that we are both getting older.

“Leaves are falling all around, It’s time I was on my way.
Thanks to you, I’m much obliged for such a pleasant stay.
But now it’s time for me to go. The autumn moon lights my way.
For now I smell the rain, and with it pain, and it’s headed my way.
Sometimes I grow so tired, but I know I’ve got one thing I got to do…”
— Led Zeppelin “Ramble On”

I was deep in my own thoughts as Taylor was nose deep into shrubbery here and there along the Alta Trail, our typical hike. Typically anywhere from ten to twenty feet behind me these days, periodically I would look back. Most of the time he was busy doing the things dogs did. Every so often, his tongue was hanging on the ground running after me. My heart always skipped a beat seeing him ramble over. Dog lovers know this feeling very well. “Ramble On, And now’s the time, the time is now, to sing my song. / I’m goin’ ’round the world, I got to find my girl, on my way.” Taylor did a lot of that.

On this particular day at this very moment when I looked back just before Pacheco Fire Road, he was nowhere to be found. I had assumed he was just around the bend, but a quick walk there exacerbated my worst fears. Several calls (more like yells) to “Taylor!!” proved fruitless. I walked up the hill, thinking he had maybe run up that trail. Not there. I walked down the path back onto Alta towards Pacheco. Nowhere to be found. I walked deep into shrubberies, thinking maybe he had fallen down (his arthritis on my mind more than ever). I ran one way. I ran the other. Then I ran some more. I’d never felt panic like this before. It was piercing; it was extremely painful, but while I briefly acknowledged it, I didn’t feel it. I was feeling increasingly more and more helpless and quite breathless.

One of the many dog-walkers came towards me from the opposite direction on Alta, with six dogs. He hadn’t seen Taylor. I was hoping against hope the dogs would somehow lead me to Taylor, but there was no indication they had sensed another dog not part of their pack. I ran back up the hill. Nearing the top, I faintly heard what I thought was the dog-walker yell “here!!”

I ran down.
I ran as fast as I could (which was not very fast, but on this day seemed to be Flash fast).

And there Taylor was — his face panting, his tongue hanging, his tail wagging, his butt wiggle-waggling.

It’s been a few weeks since that day. It’s the morning of the Fourth of July. It’s been raining, so we only took a short walk. He’s on the living room floor, chomping on a bone. He’ll be ten years old in less than three months, though he still has a lot of puppy left in him. He’s still extremely powerful, his paws steadily holding onto his bone while he tears it apart.

He doesn’t pay any attention to me. On the other hand, I am intently staring at him, with a massive smile on my face.

I love you, Taylor.

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