He’s 89 in dog years.

No wonder he’s tired all the time, retired from what used to define us – running, hiking, camping.

We were the same age once – both in our prime.

But I’m one of the lucky ones.

Most of Ace’s friends have died, but I get to hold my dog every day. I get to push my face to his fur, kiss those ears and tell him for the one millionth time, You really are a good boy, Ace.

He’s what some would call my “soul dog.” My “heart dog.” But I hope to have many “once in a lifetime” dogs.

I suppose they can all be just a special. As long as I open my heart.

Of course, I’ll never find words to describe what Ace means to me.

But I can tell stories.

We took Ace backpacking in North Dakota’s Teddy Roosevelt National Park. Before the state’s oil boom, when the park was still quiet and undisturbed. Ace would’ve been 2.

We saw no one else those couple of days. It was Easter 2008. We hiked a few hours, Ace ran amok off leash, carrying his RuffWear pack.

When we chose our camp, Josh worked on the tent while I gathered debris for a fire.

Ace planted himself exactly between us, 30 yards or so from us both. He chose to watch over us, to be our guard.

Ace in Theodore Roosevelt National Park

If a threat were to appear, whether it be man or lion, Ace was going to be there.

And that’s the thing with Ace. He’s not a fighter, but he watches over his family. With his deep bark and hackles raised, whatever it is will have to get past him first.

We camped many times. In Minnesota’s Itasca State Park and Maplewood State Park. And later, in California.

Ace in Itasca State Park

This week we’re taking both dogs to Yosemite. We won’t be camping but Ace will enjoy the scents and strolls and drives. He’ll put his nose to the snow, tracking something wonderful.

He’ll lounge on his bed in the cabin. Full of wisdom. A calmness in the room for our new pup, Remy.

And we’ll all be thankful for one more trip with our good, old boy.

Ace in Yosemite Nov 2017

On facebook, I tried to summarize how I feel about my old dog, but of course I couldn’t. I did my best:

For nearly their whole lives, we try to hold them back, try to stop their pulling. Then in their final years, we just wish they’d pull, pull again.

Love your dogs for who they are today.

You’re a good boy, Ace.

In the comments, I hope you’ll share a note about your special dog. And if you’ve met Ace in person or maybe just online through this blog, I’d like it if you shared a memory of my best buddy.

Ace is doing well, by the way. He sleeps a lot these days, as he should. I like to think he’s enjoying his retirement.

-Lindsay