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“It’s okay, Mama’ll fix it. Open wide,” I tell my dog, rolling the treat-coated pills in my hands before tucking them against my thumb and nudging them down her throat. Every time, the wad of drugs feels huge. If practice makes perfect, she’s the canine version of Linda Lovelace by now.

It’s October, and it almost feels like fall. Daytime temps are in the 70’s and 80’s but the sunlight’s got that dying feeling and the nights are starting to be cold enough to pile on the quilts. The young dog has started burrowing under the quilt to sleep again, and the cats eschew the laundry room for the warm spots on my belly and shoulder. I’m supposed to love this time of year.

But the sunlight isn’t the only thing fading. “She’s only twelve,” I say to The Boy, reminding him that (statistically) greyhounds frequently live to be fourteen years old. But those statistical dogs didn’t have thyroid issues for years and those statistical dogs don’t have a three-inch “dueling scar” showing where one of their sinus veins had to be stitched and cauterized in the emergency room after a fight. More importantly, none of those statistical dogs had a tumor removed from their mouth that the vet described as “malignant, but usually found within the torso, I think we got it all but let’s do some more tests.” The tests came back clear. This time.

This could be a good fall for me. As I move from panicked unemployment into a comfortable cycle of freelance, contract and volunteer work that I’m finding infinitely more fulfilling than working for The Boss, I’ve settled into a good routine. I still go to the gym in the mornings, and now there’s an excuse to put nutmeg in my coffee when I come home.

Instead, I put the morning dose of painkillers and anti-inflammatories into a treat for Miss Kitty. She knows exactly when 6am is, and when 5pm is, and the pain is back before either one of those times rolls around each day.

Every year we’ve told each other “this could be the one,” starting with the year I came back from law school, the year she was officially a “senior” dog. This year, it feels real in a way it never has before.

There’s a place on the porch she loves to sit. I tell myself it’s because of the late sunshine, and not because she finds more traction on the porch boards than on the living room floor where she fell and couldn’t get up on Friday. “Wait,” I told her. “Mama’ll fix it.” And she waited, like she waited the time she was caught in the blackberries, in the barbed wire, all the nicks and scars on her fragile skin still. Waited for me to fix it. Never panicked, once she heard my voice. Every time.

I don’t know when I stopped saying “mama” ironically, poking fun at the people with their “furbabies,” and started thinking of her as part of me.

So even though it’s the world’s biggest pain in my ass that she wants to go out when I’m trying to write, even though the other dogs whine and cry until they can go out too and then bark until I chase them inside, embarrassed, the porch and the sunlight are hers for as long as she wants them, any time she wants them. A closed door, I can fix.

kita porch