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  • I always wanted a dog. Actually, no, I craved one with a ferocity that was fairly epic, even for a ten year old.

    Out on my own at 19, within a three days I had rented a cheap apartment, bought a futon, and made my way to the local shelter. The man working there looked me up and down--a young kid in university, working part time who'd never owned a dog and who had no one to help out? "It's not a good idea," he said flatly. "You'll be bringing it back by next week." I smiled and asked where I could find the dogs, please?

    And find them I did. A litter of puppies, small, black, squeaking, squirmy things. With little fanfare I chose one, paid the fee, then ignored the man at the desk again when he wearily told me this would be a difficult dog, one that would have to wear a muzzle when she grew up; one that would not be easily trainable. I tucked her under my arm and marched out. On the ride home, she puked in my car, the first of her many transgressions.

    I named her "Takaya", a word I thought I made up. Years later I found out that in Native American dialects, the word means "Wolf." Weird.

    Takaya has been with me for thirteen years now. She has been the sole, living, breathing witness to my life as an adult. She's been my companion over countless miles--walking, driving, camping, and to the beach a thousand and ten times. She's trucked along with me through apartment moves, jobs, friends, fights, new relationships, fresh heartbreaks, new relationships again, and repeat. By now we are connected with a thin, gossamer thread. She's as much a part of my body as I am of hers.

    The man at the shelter was right though, she has been a real pain in the ass, too. She's difficult. I wanted a cuddly dog--she's not. I wanted a friendly dog--she is, but only to me and those who pass initiation. I wanted a dog who would live forever--she can't.

    Watching her body degrade now, with such bittersweet grace, it wrenches out a spiralling ache in mine. We walk much more slowly down the street (she's mostly faking by the way, you'd know that if you saw a cat or squirrel pop out), garnering the strangest smiles of compassion--it amazes me what an old dog brings out in people. My shining bolt of badness is still bad, but her corners have softened over the years. She "dog smiles" at strangers. She has even started to let me cuddle her. It used to weird me out how she loved to stare at me all the time, but I watch her now, as much as she watches me.

    As she sits here now, dreaming at my feet, sighing occasionally, I stare at her again. I try not to ache, and I wonder what it all means.

    The photo is her, on one of our many beach romps for two.
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