It is one in the morning. I have just come home from a birthday party. It was not a long drive but my fingers are still cold from clutching the steering wheel and my glasses have fogged up from the short walk between my car and my apartment. Duncan has been sitting on my bed dozing, his face turned to the window. When the car pulled into my spot he perked up, stood and leaned his nose against the glass watching me gather my things and climb out. By the time I reach the second landing I can hear him at the front door, whining and chirping, and even though it is silent, I know his back end is shaking ferociously from side to side, his tail slapping against the closet and the bag of doggy bags I hang from its knob. By the third landing he is in full roar, unable to contain himself as my key slides into the lock and turns. Almost as soon as the door is open he is on me, leaping up, pressing his big, newly trimmed paws against my belly, pushing his warm nose into my chest, jumping as though to hug me. He grabs my hand softly in his warm, firm mouth and pulls me back outside, shimmying from side to side under the force of his tail. He leads me back down the stairs, across the drive and onto the grass, brittle and yellow, powdered white under a layer of crisp frost. He refuses to let go, refuses to tend to business, only wants to love me and welcome me home, standing back on his hind legs and nipping at my zipper, pushing against me like a child wanting to be picked up. I stroke the curling hair on his back, coo at him and kiss the top of his red, round head and tell him how happy I am to see him, how much I've missed him even though it's only been a few hours. And as we stand there together, dancing beneath Orion and The Dipper, I am grateful to have a friend such as this, to be welcomed home as though I'd been gone for years.