Dear Leo,

   You are thirteen years old in dog years, which means you are 94 years old in people years.  That’s really old, sweetheart!  These days, you tire really easily and you limp on your front legs, because, well, you’re old.  And old people have joint problems and all of that jazz.  But it’s really sad and touching and beautiful when you’re lying down (’cause you’re old and tired) and I come outside and call your name, just to check if you’re still alive and kicking, and you get up and limp over to me.  Even though I’m in my socks and can’t go over to pet you (’cause your part of the yard is dusty and gross).  Even though I didn’t want you to come over and tire yourself even more.  But you came over, ’cause you are loyal and loving and wonderful.

     You’ve been with the family the majority of my life, and I don’t remember life when you didn’t exist or you weren’t our Leo yet.  Every summer when I come home from the airport, for as long as I can remember, you’ve been there, behind your fence, barking your weird hoarse bark (some people even joke that you swallowed a duck), and wagging your tail, and running around on your stubby legs.

     And then a few years ago the gray hairs appeared, and then this year your eyelid ripped off and you had to get surgery.  Were you scared?  What about the time, ages ago, when your sister/girlfriend died from poisoned meat?  I bet you were lonely.  I wish you could tell me about your life, a life that is so close to its end.  Every day, I go outside and call your name.  Because you are lying so still.  Because any day could be the day.  The day we lose you.  The day you are no longer panting in the summer heat, smiling. 

     I love you, little Leo, even though I haven’t cuddled with you for the longest time, because the other dog, Chestnut, is really jealous and buts his big golden retriever/Hungarian vizsla nose into my alone time with you.  But it’s okay.  I love you.

     Lots of puppy love,