Fragile, and fading, and brave.

My kids, when they woke up this morning, bolted out of bed and ran to where their dog was sleeping, skidding along the wood floors on their knees.

Harper nested in a clump of blankets next to the heating vent. The kids had organized it the night before, and I had carefully lifted my fifty-pound beastie – built for running, leaping, and agile bounding from rock to fence to rock – into the softness of her sick-bed.


She will not stand. She will not walk. And outside of some half-hearted lapping of a half-cup of water, she will not eat or drink.

The kids snuggled around her, putting their faces next to her nose, wrapping their arms around her middle.

“You’re still alive,” the kids said. “I knew it.”

Last night, when I put Leo to bed, I told him that Harper was in pretty rough shape. She’s been in rough shape before, of course (heck, she’s like a million years old), but this feels different.

“Is she going to die?” Leo said.

“Probably not tonight,” I said. “But it’s hard to tell.”

“But she is dying.”


“Maybe we should sell her.” Leo turned his body to the wall.

This sentiment surprised me. I spoke slowly. “That’s an interesting strategy,” I said. “What makes you say that?”

“I don’t want to watch her die,” he said.

We were quiet for a long time. The lights were off and the room was cold and he and I pulled closer under the covers. “I can understand that,” I said. “But think about Harper. She’s hurting and fragile and confused. But the thing that makes her happy is her family. You and your sisters, especially. She has been with you for your whole life. Don’t you want to be with her for her last, important days?”

“I hope she doesn’t die.”

“Me too.”

“But she will, though. Someday. Right?”

“Everything that is alive is fragile and precious. Everything is stardust and dirt and spring green and the breath of god, and then it fades away. Harper is fading. And so will we.”

“Harper is fragile,” Leo said. “But she’s brave. She’s not scared at all. She’s brave and snuggly.”

“And who knows,” I said. “She may rally.”

“What does rally mean.”

“It’s when someone is looking worse and worse, and suddenly they are better. Harper has looked pretty bad before, and sometimes I thought she was dying. And then she rallied.”

“I hope she rallies.”

“Me too,” I said. The wind howled outside. My dog was downstairs. Breathing. Breathing. Not getting up. My poor baby. “And who knows. She’s made of magical stuff. Maybe she’ll outlive us all.”

Leo sighed deeply. “Mom,” he said. He spoke slowly. Like he was explaining something obvious to an idiot. “There is only like a two percent chance of that happening.”

I told him that I liked those odds. And then I kissed him goodnight.

2 thoughts on “Fragile, and fading, and brave.

  1. Pingback: Regarding Harper | Kelly Barnhill

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