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(A Fall TBT, originally published in 2012)

We can get bogged down in the what-ifs, yet here in the Intermountain West, Fall has come anyway. The stifling haze from fires that ringed our valley all summer long has given way to the alpine lake blue of a cloudless autumn sky. Cold nights and warm days have left us canopied and covered in stained-glass colors. The long shadows mean rest for the land, and invite us to stop and savor the moment as well. I don’t pretend to know what the future holds for us, but I do know that days like these are gifts. If we drink them in and fill ourselves to overflowing with their beauty and wonder, they can sustain us.

I was reminded of this recently in an unlikely place. From the sublime to the ridiculous? Perhaps. I am not one to claim that everything I know I learned from my dog, but inspiration can come in small and surprising packages, especially those that embody unwavering devotion, easy forgiveness, and the joy of the moment.

He has found the perfect spot. The floor is freshly cleaned and has been gently heated these two hours since sunrise. He began here by staring, quivering and intent, through glass doors at the tall grass just beyond the strip of lawn. There are rabbits there. After an hour or so of no rodent encroachment, he relaxed into a sphinxlike pose. After another thirty minutes, all safe, he rolled onto his side.

The white fur on his belly is radiant while his sleek flank shimmers blue, absorbing the light. Even his back, which would normally rest in cold shadow, is heated by the reflected warmth from the chair behind him. Last, but most important, his boy is near. He can hear him breathe. This is complete relaxation, all his good things coming together, and is rare for a hound like him.

He is not aware yet of the one thing that could disturb his rest. The upholstered chair he is snuggled against is not firm. It swivels.

The boy reading in the chair softly closes his book, but a finger holds his place. He looks to the clock on the wall and sighs. The chair moves to the left ever so slightly. The dog raises his head, blinking drowsily in the morning light. The muscles in his tiny body tense. Is this the end? The boy moves his head from side to side, yawns, stretches his legs and crosses them. Resettling, he opens the book, but the dog remains alert.

Does the chance that the chair might swivel outweigh the comfort of warmth? Does the realization that no good thing lasts forever ruin the joy of a perfect moment?

His ears twitch, as if someone is whispering the answer. Slowly, his muscles relax and begin to melt back into the pool of sunlight. His small head flops to the floor with a soft thud. His eyes close. Bliss.

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