“Would you stop digging up my grave, Awesome?”

“I know you’re there, Spook, I want to see you.”

“No, you don’t, Awesome. Not the way I am now.”

“If I wait till after the winter there won’t be much of you to see, Spook. I’ve never been here during the winter, but they say there’s lots of this thing called snow and ice. Didn’t see much of that in Texas.”

“Oh Awesome, you should have seen me in my heyday, when I was Stanley rather than Spook. I was quite the dog. Stan the Man, Eve used to call me. It was so awesome to be alive! What’s it like now, Awesome, describe the scene.”

“It’s cold, Spook. Leaves are coming down. I just came back from an outing with Leeann, and we had an adventure because we ran into two pit bulls in the woods and everyone freaked out, except for me. But it all ended well, I chased them away.”

“You chased away two pit bulls?”

“Okay, Leeann and I chased away two pit bulls, but it was me they were afraid of, Stanley. And when Eve brought me home she gave me a treat and a pan to lick and then I stretched out on the sofa for a nap after a long, hard day.”

“OMG, Awesome, it’s just how I remember it. When it gets cold the air is crisp in the nostrils when you first run out the door and you sniff out all the action from during the night, raccoons and foxes, porcupines and deer. You walk around the back yard and bark at everyone to tell them you’re back on duty. You smell if rain is coming, the leaves tickle your hair as they come down, you snort once or twice. Eve used to bend down, put her hand on my back and say, ‘Another wonderful day to be alive, Stan.’ And I’d nuzzle close to her and lick her chin and say, because I’m so romantic at heart, ‘What about breakfast?’ That’s the trouble, Awesome!”

“What’s the trouble, Spook?”

“The living don’t know what they got till they’re dead. They don’t know how good the air feels first thing in the morning, they don’t know how to appreciate the soft blanket on the sofa—“

“I ripped it up with my teeth, Spook.”

“Exactly my point. Life is wasted on the living! Do you appreciate the feel of cold water down your throat? Rolling on the grass and letting it scratch your back? Running after critters and exploring the hollow of that tree behind the house?”

“It fell a few weeks ago, Spook, from all the rain.”

“No, Awesome, you don’t appreciate any of it! And the greatest thing of all is to find that spot of sunlight in a cold day and lie in it, get that warmth on your back, life just smiling and smiling, nothing can go wrong.”

“I appreciate it, Spook.”

“Not like the dead do, Awesome. Not like me. When you’re alive you think it’ll just go on and on. You’re even bored sometimes because it’s one day like the next, and you want to run into bears or coyotes for adventure.”

“Or pitbulls, Spook.”

“But you the living don’t really get it. Every day is an adventure, every minute of being alive is an adventure. You stretch out on the rug and feel it curl under your stomach, you feel Eve’s hands on your neck and she bends down to kiss you on your nose. I pretended I didn’t like it but I would do anything, Awesome, anything to feel that again. Can you understand that?”

“She doesn’t kiss me on the nose, Spook.”

“You call that a nose? And walking in the woods together, stalking a fox or chasing a scent, but always, always knowing where you’ll end up, by the pools deep in the forest. You know you’ll find her there, sitting on a rock, looking out across the pools at something, waiting for you to show up. You always know, or you think you know. But one day you don’t end up by those pools, you end up here, with a dumb Dixie dog digging up your grave.”

“I’m not a dumb Dixie dog, Spook.”

“Love your life, Awesome. Jump with joy, bark and holler. Love every single day, promise me you’ll do that, Awesome. Just promise me.”