> jumping into life.

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My father was in the Sierra range with his brothers, on the last backpacking trip my grandfather would see. My brother had been born only two months previous, and at the end of his trip, my father hiked out from Washburn in one long day and drove back to San Jose in the dark so as to be with his new son.

He was greeted at the door by the snarl and growl of a German shepard who had not been there when he left.

These days, my father insists that he does not like dogs.

Nonetheless, Jackson turned out to be one of the best parts of our lives. During my father's absence he had arrived on our doorstep, and my mother, for reasons still poorly understood, decided to take him in. By the time my poor dad got home a week later, I loved that dog fiercely enough that all protestations were hopeless. He was mine. He was staying. A four-year-old's will can, apparently, be a formidable thing. (It is possible my mother had some hand in it as well; my memories are a bit fuzzy on that point.)

Within a year or so, he was diagnosed with hip dysplasia, a common ailment in shepards, which are bred for an unnaturally sloping back. They gave him a few months of mobility and another year to live.

It seems like life with a pile of kids should have made it worse: I have very clear memories of a game we played that involved sliding off the couch and landing on his ribs. I also remember stealing food out of his bowl, trying to hitch him up to my wagon, and seeing how far he could pull me on the hardwood floor if I held onto his tail. Through it all, he never faltered, never even growled (except occasionally at my father, especially when he wore his cowboy hat). He lived to see us through the move to Monterey, through my transition into elementary school, then middle school. He slept always in the hallway between my brother's room and the room I shared with my sister, then between my room and the room my sister shared with my brother, except for when he slept in one of our beds. He lived to help my mom become a dog trainer, to console me through my first heartbreak with empathetic whines and an uncertain but still wagging tail.

Towards the end, his hips and his mind both failed; eventually he snapped at my mother as she tried to lift him out of bed. There followed a series of tearful conversations: Were we hanging on out of selfishness? What if he did more than snap? He had been sleeping on my sister's bed, and she did not want to become afraid of him. His pain had clearly escalated, and he could no longer navigate the path from food bowl to backyard. The next week we took him to the beach, where he hadn't been in months: he could never contain himself, always ran himself too hard and we couldn't stand to see his hurt the next day.

And we let him run.

(Happy birthday, Zeke. Thanks for bringing back memories.)

Thank you so much, Kat. That was gorgeous.

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