The parking lot is full, an indication of this trail’s popularity. A gentle, forested one mile walk in Utah’s Uinta Mountains will take us to the lake. We will share the trail with a multitude of hikers, more than I normally associate with the outdoors, but one in our group has limited ability, we cannot go far.
Damage to one hip and an implant in the other will slow our companion; pain has always been part of his life. We will match his pace, but not his enthusiasm or the happiness he finds in living. His joy is infectious; radiating from his smile, it encompasses all within his world.
Nature confronts his senses; four legs place his eyes, ears and nose close to the ground, giving him an advantage. Nothing goes unnoticed or unappreciated. Certain aspects may slow his gait, even cause him to stop and sniff, but nothing slows his tail, nothing interrupts the pure pleasure of a walk in the woods with friends.
We are not aware of the cancer attacking him from within, any pain is masked by his expression and his love for every moment of life. None of us are aware that the enthusiasm propelling his tail is being sucked into a grapefruit size tumor, that his time is measured in weeks.
This is one of those moments I would have prolonged. One time I wish I had not worried about his future, had not worried about activity aggravating damaged bone, and let him keep swimming, let him compete with Smokey for a few more sticks, allowed his exuberance to permeate a little deeper.
All but the last month of his life was in Arizona. He had one month playing in the streams and lakes of Utah’s mountains. I will remember how he reached through pain and embraced life, how he loved everyone he met, how important it was to lie in the sun and sniff the air. I will remember him here.