I’m hiking with Oscar and Pica—two dogs I sit for—up Emigration Canyon on a deserted trail I’ve never known.

And surrounding us is rustling from bushes and in my latent hesitation, the thoughts start whistling. Is the sound large or small? advancing or fleeing? Will this be that mountain lion up the canyon they warned about, or like that time I walked right past a coyote in a front yard and only saw it once I glanced back and it was silhouetted against the front porch light?

And ahead, a lone howl where there are no houses calls out the better of pushing through on this trail I don’t know, and as we walk out of desolation, in my mind is what I’d do if something (moose, cougar, coyote…) tried to hurt the dogs. I have the will to live, my daughters, pets, a life; yet as the sun becomes a predator, I already know what I’d do if something attacked the dogs. I’d do whatever it took to save them.

And it might seem a grand gesture hollowly-filled by hypotheticals but it eased my mind to push through acceptance of death in exchange for an honorable life.

And as we make our way down the trail back towards the road, Oscar looks back to make sure I’m okay like he’s already done a dozen times and in that moment I realize that he’d actually do the same for me.

(7/2019)

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