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I didn’t know it at the time, but last week, I took my final country cruise with my bestest dog and favorite copilot.

Romey was diagnosed with Lymphoma, one of the most aggressive forms of cancer in dogs, just a few weeks ago.

After an early morning emergency visit to the vet, I brought him home on a fist full of medicine hoping for a few more days. There were people I wanted him to be able to see just one more time. Granny, who he adores, Garrett who claimed him as his own twelve years ago, and Hudson who had been Romey’s “Kid” for the past year and a half.

When I pulled in the driveway I found a fox drinking from my neighbors birdbath. Too far off for a shot with my phone so I just watched for a couple of minutes until he noticed me and went back into the corn field. We have foxes all over the neighborhood but I have never seen one up in the yard so close. It was surreal.

At lunch there was a sizable hawk on my garden hoops; another thing I have never seen since living here. Mom has a couple at her place, but I’ve never seen one close to my house.

Straight after work I asked Romey if he was ready for a ride. I could tell he felt bad but he got up and wagged his tail all the way to the door. This was now a much slower trip (to the door) than it was a week ago. He was no longer running me over to get wherever we were going.

I carried him down the step, loaded him in the car, and off we went.

On the first road we hit, we picked up a passenger. Romey wasn’t feeling it so Jiminy here took over as copilot on the trip.

No bigger than my thumbnail he sat perched in on the dash looking straight ahead for the whole ride without moving.

My intention was to check out all the milkweed that was blooming and the butterflies I knew would be swarming it.

As soon as I saw my favorite patch and pulled over a deer crossed the road in front of me. She was several hundred yards ahead but stopped to look our way before she went into the corn. I took a couple of shots of her on the road and in the field and then went on to check out the milkweed and butterflies.

But honestly, I didn’t get many shots of the flora or all of the insects devouring it.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw something move pretty close to the vehicle. When I took the camera away from my face I was shocked to see that deer about ten foot from the side of the SUV.

Romey used to stand up to look around every time I stopped the vehicle to take a few shots. He hasn’t done that in weeks. This day, he stood right up.

And guess who didn’t like that!

Now, I have never been this close to a wild adult deer. I love to photography wildlife but I typically don’t initiate any contact.

The next thing I know she is coming to see us.

By this time I am talking to this deer, explaining how I can’t afford a new paint job. Because really, I thought for a couple of minutes that this deer was going get right in with us or at least take some paint off the side of the vehicle.

I swear, I believe she was listening. Romey must have been talking to her too because he was just whining out the window with an occasional tail wag. I swear that dog would play with any living thing.

I don’t know what slowed her roll but she stood there without moving as I continued to talk and snap a few pics.

I wanted to reach out and pick those mean, biting flies off of her face.

I got a couple shots of the local milkweed and all the bugs making a smorgasbord out of it. The rest of the ride was uneventful.

I got Romey home and into bed and hoped for a good nights rest for both of us.

It didn’t happen. The night was long and sobering. The following morning I took Roman to the vet where I hoped he would find peace and be pain free. I prayed as he left me that he was meeting the other four of my five pack somewhere on the other side where I hope that someday they will be waiting for me.

Dogs. They just never live long enough. I’m convinced it is because they love us so much, and so unconditionally, that they use up their life force at five times the speed of humans.

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