I picked up the soggy, slobbered-on tennis ball and threw it yet again. I watched Sunset gleefully pursue it yet again. It was part of our special bond, this pointless game of fetch. Both of us knew our parts in this tireless ritual of throwing and retrieving. Sunset did not want to give up the ball without a struggle. I had to grasp it while she held it tightly in her jaws, and we played tug-of-war. I yanked it back and forth and her head followed. She then released the ball for a moment’s time to catch her breath; I snatched it from her teeth and threw it again.
At last we collapsed on the grass, exhausted. I began stroking her mane of golden fur that surrounded her golden retriever head that moved rhythmically with each pant. She snuggled her body closer to mine and rolled over to expose her soft white underbelly. It was flaked with mud. In fact, her fur was matted with dirt. I knew I would have to do something about it, but that would be later.
She awaited her belly-scratching with eager anticipation. I responded to her invitation by running my fingernails along the sleek lines of her torso. She rolled her head to the side and closed her eyes in pure contentment. She would gladly have welcomed my continuing in this way till eternity. Disappointment was inevitable. At last, I got up and beckoned to her. She waited a little longer, hoping I would return, but finally she knew her duty and reluctantly followed.
I picked up the garden hose as casually as possible, but Sunset was not so easily fooled. When I turned on the water, aiming the nozzle toward the flower bed to make her think I was innocently watering the flowers, Sunset tried to make a run for it. I was too quick for her. Dropping the garden hose, I leaped upon her. She crouched down, curling her sixty-pound body into a remarkably small, furry ball. While lying across her, I stretched my arm out as far as it would go and just barely reached the hose. It took four towels to dry her off. I vigorously rubbed her down with each towel. The sweet fragrance of the soap could not cover up the distinctive odor of damp dog. Sunset rose to her feet, shook herself thoroughly, and with an effort at restoring her pride, gracefully pranced over to a sun-drenched spot on the lawn. She lay down. I sprawled myself out beside her. We both looked into the distance and watched the puffy white clouds drift by.
I knew that if I ever had a choice, that would be the day I would relive.