I sat on the back patio in the late afternoon, watching the grass dry up and die in the heat and the leaves on the tulip poplar turn yellow and brown. The new dogwoods suffered too, not even six months in the ground, their tender, thirsty leaves curling inward upon themselves.

Pepper galloped to the fence where she likes to run back and forth with her friend Hotch, the gorgeous German Shepherd on the other side. With enticing and slightly bossy barks, she invited him to come run with her, but he declined. He lazed on his own back patio, not making eye contact.

I didn’t have the energy to read a book. I picked up my phone and put it down. Nothing interesting was happening there. Or anywhere.

The September blues are when you think of the things you lose. Like children, and parents.

Pepper finally gave up on Hotch and came back to the patio to sit at my feet.

“Why won’t he run with me?” she asked. “I really like it when he runs with me. I really like it when he comes when I call him. Does he not like me any more? He just sat there and wouldn’t even look at me. Is something wrong with me? Have I done something wrong?” She was full-on fretting.

“Oh Peppy,” I reassured her. “It’s so hot. Hotch is a little older than you. He can’t run in this heat.”

“Yes he can!” she asserted. “He always has!”

“But maybe, now, he shouldn’t,” I offered. “He wouldn’t feel good afterwards.”

“He just needs some more encouragement,” she said, and ran back down to the fence. She barked again, cajoling, then wheedling, then desperate. She ran back and forth along the fence, trying to attract him. This time Hotch eyeballed her – and then scratched on his door to be let inside.

Pepper returned to the patio, devastated. “Why won’t he run with me?” she asked quietly.

I petted her gently under her chin and around her neck and on her back while I delivered the news.

“Everything changes, Peppy,” I said. “Hotch is – getting old. You might have a different relationship with him going forward.”

“I don’t want a different relationship,” she whispered.

“We never do, with someone we love. But then, I think, our heart – stretches. And we find new ways to love. But it can take a minute.”

“I won’t change,” Pep asserted defiantly. “And you won’t change.”

“Of course not,” I said, because she already had enough to think about.

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