Ayla died several years ago, brittle with chronic pain. But I took this a decade prior, when she was in her open-mouthed panting prime, good natured, what James Herriot called “an obvious grinner.” I loved her like a child before I knew what it was like to love children.When I had children, my older daughter insisted Ayla was her sister. Once, I happened to mention something about Ayla’s parents. My daughter looked at me, stunned.
“Ayla’s mom and dad were…dogs?”She was wonderful to my babies, in a fiercely protective way, but also made it clear she didn’t understand why I had chosen to include such noisy, unpredictable, clumsy beasts in our pack. On the other hand, they were a constant source of dropped, spilled, and occasionally regurgitated food, and she thought that was at least partial compensation for their obvious liabilities.
This picture was taken on the side of the Franklin Mountains, overlooking the west valley of El Paso, where I lived at the time. This was a lifetime ago, so long ago that I imagine if you wanted see the timeline of my life, the cartographer would have to telescope it with those little slashes.