Dear Roux,

In exactly six weeks you would turn fifteen years old, but you won’t. A part of me wanted to wait until that milestone to let you go, but it wouldn’t be right, just like keeping you here any longer because I don’t want to say goodbye isn’t right.

The vet will be here in a little over two hours, which means in three you’ll be gone. From the day I met you in a roadside hotel in Amarillo almost 15 years ago until today you’ve always been on my mind and in my heart. It has been my job to take care of you. Feeding you, exercising you, keeping you safe. But it quickly became so much more than that; ours was a relationship based on absolute trust and love. You looked to me with those big, perfectly round dark eyes and told me you’d follow me anywhere. From writing pages of instructions and worrying about you when I left town to sobbing in the vet office when you had a cancerous tumor four years ago to being terrified you’d chase a bunny and I’d never find you again, taking care of you has been central to my entire adult life.

But I find myself in a strange place now, because now taking care of you means letting you go. It’s not a surprise. I’ve known this day was coming for years and have felt like I cheated the universe and got so much more time than even I had hoped. The problem is, I don’t want to say goodbye anymore now than I would have at any other point in your life. I scarcely know who I am without you. You were the muse for my entire career, you were there the day I met my husband, it was your fur I buried my face in as I labored with my oldest daughter, you who lay in bed next to me as I nursed one baby, then another. It was you who went back and forth across the country too many times to count, who made every trip and every stop feel like an adventure. It was you who rode west one last time two years ago, you who lived with us in an in-between rental home, you who first roamed the fields we now call home. I remember watching the movers pack our belongings at the rental house, sitting on the stoop as you lay in the sun in the foreground thinking, thank you. Thank you for getting me here. Thank you for getting me to my job, to my husband, to my children, back home to Colorado, to a home and land that feels right.

Last night—your very last night—we took one last walk in the field. The sky was shades of pink and blue, the moon nearly full. At first you weren’t sure you wanted to go; you haven’t been able to go on walks in a while now. But I talked you into it, and once we got out there you played. Lasso ran circles and you gave that big ol’ puppy a run for his money. You were one of the wildest puppies I’ve ever known, and that spirit burned bright right up until your last night.

It has been one of the greatest honors of my life to spend the last almost 15 years with you, sweet Roux. You healed parts of my heart no one else could, and that you ushered me from an aimless wild kid myself to a grounded mother, photographer and wife was no accident. It was you, your steady loyalty and love. You were my home when I scarcely knew what that meant, and saying goodbye to your physical form feels like leaving one of the sweetest homes I ever knew. And yet—this is the way things work, the way they’re meant to be, this circle. I know you’ll be in the sky and the wild flowers, in the chocolate-brown eyes of the does in our field in the morning and in the hawks soaring above me. I love you, Boo.