I didn't know her very well, but I was the one who was home when it started to happen, and I sat with her under the camellia bush in the front yard. When my father got home I was brushing her; I couldn't tell if she could feel it, until she gave me one tail thump. My father in his suit sat down in the dirt and started taking the little pink fallen petals out of her fur, then changed his mind, left them there.

She licked his hand once; I think no old dog has ever passed up that final heartstring. We said, Miss Lady, you can go now. It's ok to go to sleep. You need to rest.   And she did.   My stoic father buried his face in her shaggy coat and said, I was her papa.   It was the first warm day of the year, as if someone kind had planned it.

I had never been there for them before; they were lost and I couldn't find them, or it had happened at the vet's. Toutounette had been on a slow decline for several months. She was a bush dog from Gabon, very primitive. A bush dog will never show signs of being unwell lest other dogs attack it. That is why I knew she was near the end when she didn't eat her supper.

At bedtime I put her out in the front yard to pee, but her hind legs collapsed when she squatted down. I picked her up and carried her back into the house, got her up on her feet in the living room. She stood there, splay-legged and swaying. We made eye contact. I have never seen a more human expression.

What is happening to me? Please.

I carried her into the bedroom, put her down on the bedside rug. I laid down on the bed. She gave a little sigh when I reached down and cupped my hand around her shoulder. The next morning she was still under my hand. I'd like for it to be like that for me, with someone I love holding me.

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