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HE MEANT IT as a nice gesture. It was summer and she seemed lonely—their oldest, their girl, gone off to college early—and the breed made a kind of biographical sense. When was the last time she’d put on her track shoes? He imagined woman and dog coursing the trails of FDR Park in the blue-back mornings, her coming home flushed, downing a glass of orange juice, making them bacon and eggs. Then they’d make love. She’d laugh at his jokes. She’d stop losing weight. Maybe she’d forgive him.

He did all the legwork, had the yard fenced, took the boys to Caldor for fake rabbits, a fishing rod for a pole lure, a chain link crate like the kind she would have lived in back at the track. “Name her,” he said. His wife refused. Before he could press her, the boys said “Roadie, like the Road Runner, beep, beep,” and it stuck.

But all through the fall the dog didn’t take, flitted through the house at night, ghost grey, pissing in clean laundry baskets, nosing the walls for cracks. Days she kept to her crate, to her bleached white bones. His wife kept to her old moccasins, to her sea of dandelions in the backyard, pulled the hairy bodies up, tearing her shoulder come October.

“Take it easy,” he told her.

“Who else will pull them?” she asked. Nights she came to bed with ice packs, cold, wet fists thrust between them.

He decided he would show her how to love a hound. “Run her,” he instructed the boys, a camcorder balanced on his shoulder. “Let’s see what she can do.” She opened up, whisked through the burnt grass. And it was beautiful, though after a while she seemed to limp a little, to wince when her feet touched ground.

“Give her a rest,” his wife said, looking up from her weeds. “You’re hurting her."

Then she was coating golden capsules of Omega 3 in peanut butter, baking homemade dog treats using the Christmas cookie cutters, calling, “Here, girla, girla.” At dinner she talked osteo-arthritis, the damages of racing. On the couch in the evenings, reading her AA book, she traced the curves of Roadie’s ribs, gently, with her fingertips, as if she were a violin. “My sweet girla.”

Yet when the dog’s hips went, three years later, he was the one who dreamed of those big eyes in that thin, skull face, who woke weeping, who stood in the middle of the kitchen, in the middle of the night, eating a bacony Christmas tree, wondering if he had run her too hard.