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Patsy gave us 13-1/2 years of joy as she also provided a template for desirable dog behavior and temperament. From the moment Bob brought her home from the Humane Society as a 12-week-old pup, she did everything right. She brought the newspaper inside every morning, traveled with us all over the West, and didn’t bark (unless a skunk came into the yard). All she asked was to be allowed to stay somewhere near us. Even when we left her for a few days, she adjusted to other places just fine. She was friendly to people, dogs, and even cats.

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Fair weather or foul, she was always up for a walk, and we covered many miles together. She’d been slowing up this year, and I’d found myself tailoring our outings to avoid tiring her out. We’d go more slowly, less often, and for shorter distances, but she always wanted to go. Her eagerness to walk was remarkable in the face of the frequent and painful cysts on her paws that had developed over the past few years. First one paw, then two, and, this month, three paws.

Of course, we’d known for 6-1/2 years that she was one tough dog. The first 7 years of her life she spent bounding over sagebrush, leaping fences we had no idea she could scale, and generally making me wonder whether we should have named her “Rocket.” But in 2006 she became deathly ill with an ailment whose origins we never did figure out, in spite of many tests and tremendous effort on the part of several vets at The Ark Animal Clinic. She spent so much time there and she was so good that they took to letting her lie beneath the reception desk. Slowly, after about 3 months, her persistent fever went down, the 4-inch gaping hole on her back started to heal, and her zest for life returned. With the help of a tiny lifetime dosage of prednisone, she soon regained her ability to participate in our lives. Though she no longer raced and jumped, she still enjoyed walking. As recently as a week ago, she ran ahead of me to get the morning paper.

But we’d had warnings since last December that her system was finally winding down. After years of sleeping quietly all night, she developed problems with getting confused, panting, and panicking at being enclosed in any way. She was still the same, sweet dog, so we tried a number of different medicines and regimens . . . basically, we were willing to do whatever worked to make her happy. Still, we knew she was on a downward slope. We were grateful for all the extra years we had with her, and we did our best to give her more. In late August she had her annual physical and received another 3-year rabies vaccination. Her Deschutes County dog license was renewed September first. We were planning for the future, though we counted every day after her dreadful illness in the spring of 2006 as a bonus. Our bonus days ran out last night when she had a neurological episode of some type. We’ll never know precisely what it was.

This morning, we made the difficult decision to let her rest at last. Her medical balancing act had been too precarious on too many fronts for too long. She had lived a good, full life and we didn’t want her to experience further distress.

And now she won’t. No more confusion, trembling, or pain. We did our best for her and she did her best for us. Perhaps she wasn’t always exactly perfect, but close enough. It’s easy this afternoon to forgive her for the two pieces of toast she stole off our dinner plates recently.

We buried her in the shade of the apple trees in our garden. She always wanted to be near us, and we did the best we could to make it so. She was a terrific friend . . . and we’ll miss her.