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/// She is old. We have had her ever since I can remember. I put my face


into the wiry brown fur on her heaving side and listen to her insides; breathing, panting. Like a city of noises gurgling underground. Shallow breaths, up and down–in and out. They tell me she is dying. I know that it means she will go away. Somewhere. I ask, ―Why?‖ There is no answer. I ask, ―Where will Brownie go?‖ My dad walks away. My mom says, ―Heaven dear, she is going to


heaven.‖


I have heard this before. I know they don‘t know where that is. I lean in near her ear, it is very soft. She is panting little pants. I say,


―It‘s okay now. You can go.‖ Her tail lifts and falls once, twice. The muscles in her shoulder tighten, and her head lifts off the floor just a little. I think for a moment that she is going to get up, and I move away to give her some space. But she drops back onto the floor and sighs–a long whistling exhale. The panting stops. Her eye is closed, like she is asleep, but I know she isn‘t. She‘s gone. Brownie‘s body is there but not Brownie. I think, I wonder where she is?


/// The breeder named her Wallstone‘s Black Duchess. She was the one.


I could just tell. One in a jumble of black, tan, and white fur; wobbling on unsteady legs. It was hard to imagine that this little fuzzy rat would someday grow into a dog. Her brothers and sisters squeaked and growled, tumbling over one another in the open cardboard box. Mom said, ―She will be bigger than Brownie, you know. Collies are


big, athletic dogs; you are going to have to walk her every day.‖ I was hardly listening. I held the little puff ball with my thumbs


hooked under her front legs, and raised the tiny black nose to mine. Her puppy eyes were still blue, sort-of unfocused. My dad said, ―I think we‘re going to take this one. Sammy? You can


call her Duchess.‖ The puppy stopped squirming. Her hind legs hung limp. Her little


pink tongue flicked out and kissed me. I thought: is that you? I said, ―Mom? I think she recognizes me. It‘s Brownie! She‘s come


back home to me.‖


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