The sunlight shines perfectly on my black leggings, drawing my eye to a shiny string clinging to my thigh. A short, coarse hair glistens in the light. I carefully pluck it off with my thumb and forefinger, peering down at the microscopic hair weaving back and forth in the wind.
I twirl it in the sun, not sure how it got on my leg, especially after all this time. It’s been almost a year.
The empty dog bed remains nestled under the baby grand piano, its ivory keys untouched for generations. To my family, it adds elegance to our living room. To Winston, it was a towering fortress, protecting him from the poking and prodding of little cousins.
His eyes peered out at me from behind the gold foot pedals. His green squishy ball rested beside him, never out of sight. Small dots spiraled up and around it, forming waves across the surface. I grabbed the ball and tried to coax him out. I darted it back and forth, weaving it through the air. I hopped it up and down on the ground, the sound echoing. But his big brown eyes only looked up at me. Are you crazy?
I threw a piece of cheese before his nose. He sniffed, but didn’t move.
“Winston! Treat!” I watched his ears, but they didn’t perk up at the sound of my voice.
“Winston!” I cooed. But he couldn’t hear me. I pounded on the ground next to his ear, watching for a little twitch, something. He stared back, the sides of his eyelids dropping.
I clench my fist at my side, almost feeling the small spikes from his ball indenting my palm, a familiar texture. I stare down at the hair between my fingers, my last piece of him desperately clinging to me.
People pass by as I shift the hair around, catching the light. I study each bend and twist, finding the spot where golden orange fades to white.
I woke up early to surprise my family with a pancake breakfast. Winston greeted me at the bottom of the stairs, claiming his usual spot by the couch. In mid-afternoon the sun shines through the large two-story window. He could stretch out his back legs, a natural heating pad.
“Winston, let’s go outside!” I said, using my sing-song voice. He opened his eyes, but wouldn’t lift his head.
“Come on. Outside!” I made exaggerated gestures with my hands. “Outside! Outside!” Jumping up and down, I performed a minstrel routine for him.
Slowly, he braced his front paws in front of him, but his body didn’t rise. My shaking hands grabbed his hips, holding his back end up. “Come on Winnie!” I cheer. But his back legs won’t support him.
Later that day, we learned that Winston had arthritis in his lower back.
As the wind rushes past, I smell his coat, a sweet strawberry shampoo. I hold out my hand, the hair cradled in my palm, and wait for a breeze to come. My hair moves in front of my face and his hair whooshes up, tossing and turning in smooth circles above.
I see him running around and around in circles in my backyard, his bushy tail trailing behind. Faster and faster he runs, until he catches the wind just right. And he floats. Floats up into the sky.